Interview with our new CEO
Published on 10 May 2019 03:15 PM
Dawn McNally, the new Chief Executive of Age UK North Tyneside, has been in the post since the beginning of April this year and has been sharing her thoughts on her new role, in an interview with Summer Dolan, our Marketing Intern.
So how do you feel about taking on the role of Group Chief Executive after twenty two years in the organisation?
DAWN: It is an honour and a privilege, to lead such a fantastic organisation. I am really excited about taking on the role.
What sort of changes have you seen since starting in 1997? Not just in the organisation, but the third sector more generally?
DAWN: I never thought as a Charity, we would spend as much money on Marketing and PR, it is a sign of key changes. Charities used to receive block funding to fund a particular piece of work, with personalisation, particularly within social care, where customers have choice, we have to be able to compete for people to choose us as an organisation to provide their services. [We] have to have a closer connection with the market, and we have to be light on our feet to be able to respond. It is a great strength of the sector that we are so responsive, and it is one of our key values. That is one of the big changes I have seen – a move towards charities having to be more commercial, and business-like to attract people to use their services to ultimately make us more sustainable.
In the last four to five years, austerity has had quite an impact on older people’s services, with fewer people receiving statutory services. People are living longer and they are more frail, with complex medical conditions. This means we have to deliver more complex services in an increasingly competitive environment.
So I suppose, sort of changing with society, as society changes?
What do you think makes Age UK North Tyneside unique? So, with regards to ‘competing’ with other charities – what makes us different to other charities?
I would say “our people”. What is really important is for us to perform well, with happy staff, volunteers, and ultimately customers, and that requires good leadership and management. The Leaders create the culture defined by our values that allows people to fly, to feel valued and supported. I am a big believer that you can do anything if you have the right support and training.
If you create the right culture, and the values are important, and you recruit against those values, and manage those, and challenge yourself against those, you create an atmosphere that people want to be part of.
And then, linking with austerity – what would you say the role of politicians are in a charity such as Age UK North Tyneside?
DAWN: I think politicians, especially in North Tyneside, do understand the challenges that austerity brings. They talk about an ageing population and the challenges that brings. But as someone speaking on behalf of older people, I feel that someone needs to be brave enough to be tackle that ticking time-bomb at a national level, and do something very different to provide the money that is needed to support older people to have a better quality of life
What did you want to do as a child? Have you always wanted to work in this sector?
DAWN: No, I was very lucky, I went to college and university, and was advised to go into Accountancy by all the career advisors as finance was a good grounding for any sector. I trained with Grant Thornton is Newcastle for three years, where I became a disillusioned with the constant focus on “chargeability”. I had become a “charity” expert and one of my clients asked me to go and work for them as their Bursar, it was private school in Northumberland. After three years at Mowden Hall School I applied for the role of Head of Finance & Admin at Age UK North Tyneside back in 1997. This organisation’s has been very good to me, and allowed me to grow. It has looked after me, and I hope have helped create a culture where other people would say the same thing.
And what are, I suppose, your favourite aspects of the role and the sector?
DAWN: In the sector, we are the ones that are closest to communities and its people, and it’s one of my biggest frustrations that we do not get enough long-term funding to make a long term impact. But I do love that we are able to help solve problems and help people quickly. If I know there is a problem and can see the solution, we can respond to that straight away.
There’s one particular example which demonstrates our responsiveness and flexibility. Late one Friday afternoon an older lady rang here in a lot of pain, she was tired and hungry and lived in an upstairs flat. She got in touch because she had failed to make contact with anyone else for help and support, she explained she could not get out and had no food. We sent two care staff around to her flat and found fifteen bags of rubbish which we moved for her (she was unable to get downstairs); they bought her food, and the Head of Service intervened and insisted that her GP come out to visit her as soon as possible. Instead of the lady probably being admitted as an emergency to hospital over that weekend, our help meant she was able to access care in her own home.
If you really want to make a difference, the sector allows you to do that. I have no doubt I chose the right career path.
What changes would you like to see under your leadership within the organisation?
DAWN: In lots of ways, more of the same – I have been in the organisation twenty two years and played a big part in terms of getting us to where we are today. I think we have got a much bigger part to play in supporting the NHS to deliver it new Long Term Plan. We are keen build stronger relationships with health, and being a strong strategic and delivery partner.
I am passionate about finding older people who are socially isolated and lonely. It really concerns me that there are still a lot of older people locked behind their own front door, whose lives could be improved by interacting with this organisation or our many partners.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
DAWN: I love football – I used to play football, I like watching football. I like all sports. Right now I am into ‘skinny pigs’, which is a fitness programme for women that I have become rather addicted to. I love spending time with my little nephew, Finley, – family is really important. I like reading. I love to travel. I like socialising, but usually eating, because I am not really a drinker. I love the sun – I like to be out and about.
And finally, who are the people, alive or dead that you look up to, and why?
DAWN: My paternal grandmother would be one – she’s no longer with us – she was born in 1913, and was an unmarried mum, bringing my father up pretty much on her own. I have a lot of respect for what she did, she always tried to do the best by everyone.
Princess Diana because I think she showed that no matter what position you are in, you are still a person. She was not afraid to be seen as vulnerable and as having real problems
The Queen – ninety two years old, I have seen her at a garden party, walking around for hours, doing her “job”, incredible.
Alma, my predecessor.
So I suppose what you admire is that ability to stay grounded, whilst also recognising the ability to enact change?
DAWN: Yes, being real. I love getting around the table with a problem to solve and will always get frustrated when people create barriers or when the long term plan is sacrificed for short term gains.