Kath’s last day at Community Action Derby was on Wednesday 30 June 2021 after she decided to retire. She has given over twenty-one years to the charity sector and for that we are grateful.
Kath, it’s your last day here at Community Action – how does it feel?
A bit strange, but very pleasant. It’s very nice of everybody to make such a fuss of me and I’m very grateful for that. I’ve been here twenty-one years and three months I believe. Yes, I started in the year 2000 in April.
What did you do before that?
I did eighteen months in Staffordshire as a Rural Development Officer for a mobility company – a company that ran the buses out in the countryside. And prior to that I’d worked for Health Promotion for the NHS for thirteen years.
What was it like working for the NHS?
It was good times. It was changing and Public Health were taking over from Health Promotion. When I originally started in Health Promotion, it was more a case of telling people what they were doing wrong. If they knew smoking was bad for them, they’d give up smoking. If they knew they should be eating healthier, they’d eat healthy.
But of course just telling them didn’t work. So it became more of a ‘we need to support people to make healthy choices’ and that’s when it became Public Health.
Shortly after that it went into the local authority. Of course, prior to that it had been under the NHS umbrella. So that was an interesting change. And it happened while I was working in Rural Development, so when I came back to the voluntary sector in Derby, Public Health was already moving in to the local authority. Very interesting times. I reconnected with some of the people who had previously worked at the NHS.
What was your first day like at Community Action?
Can I remember that long ago? I do remember being shown around the building and introduced to people, which still happens of course, and one of those people was Ken who was in the Volunteer Bureau. He had a great list of people who volunteered and if you needed something doing you told him what you needed doing and he’d find somebody to do it for you. I remember Ken was quite a character.
Are you the longest-serving person here?
No, I think Chris was here first. And Ejaz must have been here before I came, but he’s had a spell of working for JET over the time that I’ve been here.
Do you remember what Chris and Ejaz were doing at that time?
I don’t. I remember that Angela Kerry was my line manager and I worked with a gentleman called Christian, who was the publicity person like Jayne is now. Angela, Christian and I still meet up for lunch every now and then. Actually, I’ve got a number of people who used to work here that I still meet up with. And now I’ve got more time to have more lunches.
What is your fondest memory of working at Community Action?
That’s a difficult one. I’ve got lots of nice memories. It’s very difficult to pinpoint something down like that. It’s more the people that I’ve been associated with. Anne Theobald was one of those people, when she came to do the pyramid work. So that was a good project.
What was the pyramid work?
It was about identifying people who perhaps hadn’t got help during a bad winter. The project came from Winter Pressures money and it was about recruiting volunteers that could be the emergency contact for a person who lived alone and who might find it difficult to get out and about if there was snow on the ground or if it was getting icy underfoot.
We built up quite a number of people who were in that situation and quite a number of volunteers who could help them. And then we had the mildest winter on record! So we didn’t have the volumes of people needing help, but we did do some communal work. We brought people together and there were other things that happened as a result of bringing people together and putting them in touch with other organisations.
And so that was a useful thing to do. I’ve still got some of the publicity bags – canvas and cotton type of bags to reuse, with the pyramid logo printed on them – and use them for my vegetables. I don’t waste anything.
And what else have we done? Building Healthier Partnerships was a good project. I worked with Pam Wood and that was consulting with the sector about how they saw the future of health and care, which were starting to come together. So the original Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) did have voluntary sector input in Derbyshire and I was quite pleased that we managed to do that across Derbyshire and get involvement from the Chief Executive over at what the CCG was back then. That was a useful bit of work. And again working with Pam, who was great. We did our work together down in South Derbyshire.
Who else have I worked with? I’ve worked with a number of people who’ve gone on to do other things, either in local authority or in the NHS. I first came across Christine Bell when she was working for the Derbyshire Carers Association. And then the next time she popped up she’s at the City Council and then she’s at the NHS. Christine has now retired, of course.
And Richard Murrell. He moved around a bit and ended up at the NHS. There’s been a number of those sorts of people who started in the voluntary sector and worked their way into the NHS or the local authority.
Any advice for people like me who have only been in the charity sector for a year or two?
Keep your eyes and ears open.
I think there’s a great future for the voluntary sector. I think the opportunities are there. The pandemic has certainly stressed the value of volunteering and, if you look at it closely, it’s obvious that when you have people willing to volunteer there does need to be a level of organisation in that. Otherwise people who need help will fall through and get missed. So I think it’s a big opportunity now for the voluntary sector to really show its worth and really be a part of an integrated system.
The only threat to that as I can see would be the need over the next few years to start paying for the pandemic. There’s always that danger that, when money is tight, it’s easier to cut the voluntary sector rather than cut anything else. So I think we do need to keep our foot well and truly in the door and keep showing the value that we provide, that we are worth it, that we do contribute probably more than the actual pound, shilling and half pence – and that’s definitely showing my age!
And how do you plan to spend your retirement?
Well, the first thing is to go through my wardrobe, get rid of some of the official sort of work clothes and sort out some of the material that I’ve bought over the years and never had a chance to make up. So a new wardrobe is on the cards. That’s the first thing.
I have got some things lined up. I’ve got a wedding in a fortnight. I’m going down to London hopefully – fingers crossed – with my daughter for a couple of nights and a camping trip with the family at the end of August and then a camper holiday with my sister in September. I’ve got something for each month until November, so I’ve got to think of something for November.
But perhaps I won’t be disappearing altogether – maybe there will be something I can find to contribute usefully. But nothing that takes up too much time – I still want to have my lunches and time to do other things.