Interview: Anne Marie Carrie

The new chief executive of Barnardo's tells Sophie Hudson she wants to influence policy and be a strong voice for children

Anne Marie Carrie
Anne Marie Carrie

Running Barnardo's is no job for faint hearts - its last chief executive was Martin Narey, who established a reputation as one of the sector's big, no-nonsense beasts.

You wouldn't call Anne Marie Carrie a beast, with her warm smile and perfect turnout. But she's clearly a tough cookie, determined to uphold Barnardo's role as an uncompromising voice for children.

On her first day she engineered the kind of coverage many charity heads would die for: a prime-time interview on Radio 4's Today, a big article in The Times and her own opinion piece in The Guardian.

And she's not planning any let-up in the charity's lobbying activities: she makes it clear she wants the charity to maintain its role in influencing government policy.

"It's important that the organisation commends and sticks up for the government when it's doing the right thing," she says.

"But it's also important that we continue to give a voice to children and young people. Barnardo's is a brave organisation. I like the fact that it makes brave statements and it seeks to influence policy."

Tough upbringing

Carrie grew up on one of the roughest council estates in Glasgow, and she says this taught her the importance of organisations such as the children's charity she now leads.

"The intervention of agencies was critical in my life," she says. "And I've had a lifelong history of working with the most vulnerable."

So far her working life has been mainly in the public sector, including six years as director of education and family services at East Lothian Council and four years as deputy chief executive and executive director for family and children's services at the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

Carrie thinks this experience will help with her plans to increase the level of services Barnardo's delivers on behalf of local authorities. The charity already provides adoption services and children's centres for some local councils.

"Even in this difficult financial climate, we are retaining business and expanding," she says.

"We have a proven track record of being cost-efficient and we can demonstrate the impact of our work."

Service delivery

But she says any increase in the delivery of services will not undermine the charity's independence. "It's very important to keep a balance with that," she says.

"Charities can often identify a problem well ahead of the government. We can then tackle those problems first and show local authorities the impact the work is having, which might convince them to step in, too."

What about the charity's provocative advertising? In 2003 it ran adverts that showed a baby with a cockroach or a syringe in its mouth; they were banned by the Advertising Standards Authority.

"I wouldn't call it provocative," she says firmly. "I would call it a reality check. We're not being provocative for the sake of it. It just reflects the reality of our work."

Carrie says she will not be making many organisational changes - her view is that the charity is not broken and does not need fixing.

"But I will take stock," she says. "There are some courageous conversations to be had around effectiveness and value for money, and whether to provide universal services or just focus on the most vulnerable."

Pragmatic approach

At the moment, she says, the entire sector needs to take a pragmatic approach and budget effectively, in the same way that people have to do with their own spending.

"There needs to be focus, and we need to make sure every penny is spent wisely," she says. "This might mean hard choices have to be made. We need to step up to the mark."

Carrie says it will be important for Barnardo's to maintain a balance of income sources and has asked the fundraising staff to do research into social impact bonds and the priorities of the Big Society Bank in particular.

"I want us to fully understand these things and be ahead of the game," she says.

She is more sceptical about online fundraising and has asked her staff to find out how effective it is at raising money. "We shouldn't do it just because it's fashionable," she says.

When it comes to voluntary income, Carrie says that getting the public involved in the cause can benefit the fundraising. For example, with the Barnardo's new Cut Them Free campaign - launched on Carrie's first day in her new role - people who donate or buy items from its shops are being invited to get involved in the campaigning.

"Customers become participants in the campaign rather than just being passive," she says. "They are then able to connect with the idea that their donation is leading to positive change."



2006: Deputy chief executive and executive director for family and children's services, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea

2003: Regional director of local government (London), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

2001: Corporate executive director, North Tyneside Council

1995: Director of education and family services, East Lothian Council


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