The Big Hire: Catherine Johnstone

The new chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service steps into the shoes of David McCullough

Catherine Johnstone
Catherine Johnstone

Catherine Johnstone, who has become chief executive of the older people's charity the Royal Voluntary Service, will be a familiar face to many in the sector

Johnstone was chief executive of the suicide-prevention charity Samaritans from 2009 to 2015, and succeeds David McCullough, who left the RVS at the end of July to become chief executive of the older people's housing and care charity the Abbeyfield Society.

Before joining Samaritans, Johnstone was interim chief executive of Capacitybuilders, the now-defunct quango that provided infrastructure support to the voluntary sector.

She has been chair of the training and publishing charity the Directory of Social Change since 2013 and was last year appointed CBE for services to suicide prevention. She was also interim chief executive of the Dover-based charity Migrant Help until March this year.

Johnstone became a trustee of the RVS in January, a role she relinquished before taking up her new post in August.

She joins the charity at a time when its income has been falling steadily, from £74.7m in 2011/12 to £64.7m in 2015/16. It spent more than it earned in each of those years by up to £8.9m, although its annual report for 2015/16 says the £3.6m loss in that year was better than expected and "progress towards a break-even performance remains on track" after a restructure.

The charity, which has 1,200 staff and about 25,000 volunteers, gives support to more than 100,000 older people each month.

RVS chair Richard Greenhalgh says Johnstone's experience and her record in building sustainable services, driving innovation and inspiring and enabling volunteers will be invaluable.

Johnstone, who began her career as a nurse, says it is a privilege to take up the role. "In an increasingly tough time for our society, I am looking forward to working with the staff and volunteers to ensure that RVS is the best it can be," she says.

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