The new chief executive of Hospice UK will experience something of a homecoming when she takes charge of the charity later this year. Tracey Bleakley, currently chief executive of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, worked at executive level in the non-profit sector between 2009 and 2014, leading Mend - a social enterprise that tackles obesity among children - and the Personal Finance Education Group. Earlier, she had worked in management with Price Waterhouse, Accenture and ITV.
After 14 months as a public servant, the 41-year-old has realised the third sector is where her heart is. "In my corporate career I could work ridiculous hours and feel I'd achieved something, then a new chief exec comes along and goes in a different direction," she says. "Yes, you then have shareholder value, but nothing about that is sustainable, nor is it helping people. That's something that really appeals to me about the third sector: no matter how it hard it is or how tired you might be, you've got that drive every day because you're making a difference."
Bleakley voluntarily left pfeg in 2014 after successfully campaigning for financial education to be included in the national curriculum. With its main aim achieved, a merger with Young Enterprise was negotiated to allow pfeg to survive, with the sacrifice of the chief executive a condition of the deal. "The APCC job came up and looked hugely interesting," she says. "How often do you get the opportunity to represent senior politicians across parties, all at the same time? But I hadn't realised how much I would miss campaigning. I saw the Hospice UK role come up and couldn't resist coming back to the sector."
Bleakley will replace David Praill, who stepped down earlier this year after 18 years in the role. Once in office, she will lead Hospice UK's work on enabling more than 200 hospices to provide palliative care to those who need it in their place of choice.
"David is going to be a tough act to follow, but my predecessor at pfeg was there for 13 years," she says. "That's nice because his long tenure has given the organisation stability; it feels like a real family."
Bleakley feels a close connection with hospices through being a patron of one in her home town of Bolton and witnessing the care given to members of her own family. "If you look at my career in the third sector, it might look diverse," she says. "But actually healthy eating, healthy living, financial capability and now hospices and death - they affect everybody. Those are the sorts of issues I'm attracted to - maybe because they're a bit harder."