New year, new challenges

I wish you all a happy New Year and I hope that, like me, you have a varied and exciting year ahead of you. I am privileged to work in interesting and challenging environments alongside very talented and dedicated people. I know that some of the things that we will be dealing with this year will involve knotty problems (tax and Brexit come to mind!) but they will also be stimulating and I’m looking forward to it all.  I am particularly looking forward to the publication of the NICE guideline on improving the experience of adult social care users.  This is the culmination of over 2 years hard work by the guideline committee who have dedicated themselves to drawing up guidelines that, once implemented, will make a big difference to those who use social care.  Watch this space around February!

Telling my leadership story

IWF LogoA few years ago I was privileged to be invited to join the International Women’s Forum UK, a network of women with who have all demonstrated substantial achievements in the widest possible variety of fields, from business to media, science to charity.  I am delighted to have been asked by the Forum for my ‘leadership story’ for the newly launched website. It was a real treat to take the time out to think about the questions they asked and understand what has really made a difference to me throughout my career. I recognised that it’s often the small stuff that makes the biggest difference, but I don’t always reflect on those things. So thank you, IWF UK, for prompting me to do so!

Discoveries in the USA

Boston refuge areaI recently spent a very interesting 3 weeks on holiday in the USA – although I couldn’t resist doing a little work while I was there.  Whilst visiting the cities of New York, Washington and Boston, I met with the transport professionals responsible for accessibility.  They were very welcoming and I shared ideas from London, and picked their brains about US provision.  Using the public transport systems to get around was fairly straightforward – the subways in particular worked well for us and we found at least one ‘little gem’ in each city.  In New York, overhead signs showed the best place to board for level access; in Washington, platform edge lights flashed when a train was approaching, giving plenty of warning to board; and in Boston we found refuge areas for wheelchair users in the subway (pictured).  My companion and I sampled most forms of transport – including Amtrak, which made our National Rail services look quite good!

Rewarding good governance

It was my very great pleasure and honour once again to present an award at the Charity Governance Awards on Wednesday, 24th May. The event was held in the imposing and beautiful Clothworkers Hall in the City. This year, my fellow judges and I judged one category: Managing Turnaround. The level of dedication and commitment of the Trustees in each of the entries was quite phenomenal. The winner was Off The Record from Bristol, a mental health service and movement for children and young people aged 11-25 who live in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.  You can read the story of their turnaround here.

What if you can’t use public transport?

On 29th March some of my fellow Transport for London Board members and I were taken on a fascinating visit to Dial-A-Ride to see the operation in practice and learn more about it. Public transport in London is becoming increasingly accessible, so many of us are able to get out and about using mainstream modes. But for some, it will never be possible to walk to a bus stop and wait for a bus, or walk through a tube station and board a train, for instance – and for some their ability to do that will depend on how they are feeling that day, or what the weather is like. So ‘social needs transport’ is key to ensuring everyone can get out and about, reducing isolation and increasing mental and physical wellbeing. The dedication of the staff was impressive and I felt proud to be part of an organisation that recognises different needs and tries to meet them well.

A masterclass in the prospects for business

On 14 March I was privileged to attend a Masterclass dinner hosted by Grant Thornton with Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-general of the CBI, as the speaker. She gave a commanding and fascinating speech covering a wide range of issues ranging from Brexit to inequality of productivity across the UK. I learnt far too many things to list here, but I won’t forget her comments about the number of import/export challenges businesses will face if we don’t handle things well when leaving the EU.  I know there’s a great deal of work going on behind the scenes in government departments from my various roles across the public sector. We need to keep that up for the good of British business!

New Crossrail Train Carriages Unveiled

On the 3 February I had a stimulating trip to Bombardier in Derby to see the Elizabeth line trains – Crossrail as I knew it – being built.

I liked the accessibility features which I thought worked well. This includes subtle colour contrast (i.e. not bright yellow!), step free access from platform to train, wide doorways and four dedicated wheelchair spaces on each train. You can still travel in the vestibule, though, so there’s plenty of choice.  In addition, all platforms along the Elizabeth line will be fully accessible with step-free access/ramps for boarding.

The new line will truly be a ‘step-change’ in transport accessibility in London. I’m looking forward to travelling on it when the line opens fully in December 2019.

 

BDF Annual President’s Dinner

 

Last month I attended the annual President’s Group dinner hosted by Lloyds Group in the City. The President’s Group brings  together the leaders of the Business Disability Forum’s partners to identify and discuss the strategic challenges of becoming disability-smart.

I shared a table with an impressive group of talented people that made for an thought-provoking evening. There were some interesting and lively discussions on improving employment opportunities and services for disabled people.

Spending an evening in such company makes me realise that we can make progress on the inclusion of disabled people in society when we work together.

 

Swanswell and Cranstoun Merger

 

swansellI am pleased to report on the successful merger last month of Swanswell and Cranstoun, both national charities that provide support to people affected by addiction.

The smooth merger of these organisations is a testament to the dedication and hard work of both organisations’ senior executive teams and Boards.  They have worked tirelessly to ensure that the transition process is seamless and that services continue uninterrupted.

In the current difficult political and economic environment, this merger makes good business sense. The consolidation of operations and resources allows the new group to strengthen their sustainability and provide a robust platform to expand and develop in the future and deliver more high-quality services to individuals and communities.cranstoun_logo

The charities have a shared vision to save, change and rebuild lives and already successfully work in partnership on many projects. This is an exciting new venture and I wish the new organisation well as I end my tenure as Chair of the Board of Trustees at Swanswell.

Highly Recommended…

I had the pleasure of enjoying a celebratory weekend in London recently where I got to enjoy a double cultural treat. Firstly, the National Theatre’s award-winning production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time in the West End. Wow – I can highly recommend this entertaining winner of 7 Olivier Awards and 5 Tony Awards® including ‘Best Play’ – it gripped me the whole way through.

Then secondly, I also got to see the new Ken Loach film I, Daniel Blake. An excellent film of our time that will stay with you. It’s a moving, sometimes funny film that is a painfully realistic representation of welfare bureaucracy at its worst: failing to listen and thereby disadvantaging further those who rely on it in times of hardship. Well worth watching…