I worked at Disc (Developing Initiatives Supporting Communities), which challenges disadvantage and exclusion in the north of England, for 25 years, the last five as chief executive. Before that I was a social worker. In the public sector it was hard to be creative, so I loved the fact that you could be innovative in the charity world, as long as you could find the funding. That's been the hard bit, especially in recent years, when funders have seemed less willing to pay reasonable management fees for contracts.
Our income comes mostly from public sector contracts, and the most funders will pay is 10 per cent, which does not cover our costs, especially when the expectations of funders and others keep increasing. Expectations keep rising in areas such as staff training, professional standards, protecting children and safeguarding vulnerable people. It's been very challenging, and stressful, trying to meet these competing demands, and it raises some difficult questions for the long-term sustainability of many charities.
On the plus side, it's been great to be involved in creating a relatively large charity in the north east, a region that is probably under-represented among larger charities. We've built a great organisation with a fantastic and loyal staff. I'm very proud of some of our innovative initiatives, such as those working with looked-after children.
What next? It's been nice to have some time for climbing mountains since leaving. Like many people, my pension isn't going to be as good as I thought, so I might do some consultancy as well as some volunteering. I'd like to use my experience working with young people in the looked-after system.