Rebecca Jarvis reflects on her journey at Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich Mind.
Rebecca Jarvis, BLG Mind’s outgoing Chair of Trustees
Last month I stepped down as chair of Bromley, Lewisham & Greenwich Mind as I had reached the end of my term. I was given a wonderful send off by the Senior Leadership Team and fellow trustees at my final board meeting and even a ‘leaving quiz’, carefully researched by the vice-chair, Don Burford, on my time as trustee.
It was fitting to end on such a significant board meeting. Significant not only because we appointed our new chair, Rikki Garcia, but also because we approved to merge with our neighbours, Lambeth and Southwark Mind, creating a larger organisation which we firmly believe will provide greater benefit overall to the respective populations we serve.
My journey at BLG Mind
I became a trustee in 2014 but I had been involved in the organisation before then. I first came across what was then ‘Bromley Mind’ when I worked as a strategic commissioner at Bromley Council and PCT (remember them?). I was responsible for commissioning services for older adults and realised early on the amount of value that the voluntary sector could provide. Bromley Mind stood out in terms of its organisational maturity and professionalism. The Chief Executive at the time, Sandi Lowing, showed me what a good voluntary organisation should look like and I held that up as the standard that all organisations should aspire to. I think we also demonstrated what a good commissioner-provider relationship should look like. It was, of course, based on trust and we worked together on developing and commissioning new dementia services for the borough, which are still delivered today.
The current Chief Executive, Ben Taylor, has led the organisation through significant growth since he took up the role in 2012, merging with Lewisham and Greenwich Minds, and now Lambeth and Southwark Mind. He is also the voluntary sector lead for mental health in South East London and provides a key leadership role in the region. It’s due in part to his credibility and ability to forge effective partnerships that we were able to secure large scale services such as the Suicide Bereavement Service which is delivered in partnership with Mind in Bexley and the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.
During my time as a trustee, I have had the privilege to experience many positive developments, often delivered in partnership with other voluntary sector organisations and NHS trusts. BLG Mind, like many charities, excels at innovation and it has been inspiring to see how small projects such as the Mindful Mums service in Bromley for new and expectant parents have expanded across all three boroughs and have become a part of the core mental health offer.
As chair, I was very lucky that the organisation is large enough and stable enough that we were able to weather the storm when we have experienced set backs, such as the loss of two significant contracts at the start of this year. I really feel for those boards which have to make difficult decisions about the longer term viability of their organisation and it was heartbreaking to read about the recent closure of the Cares Family.
One of the things I have been most impressed by was the dedication, expertise and professionalism shown by the Senior Leadership Team and my fellow trustees. We all know that voluntary sector salaries are not high and trustees give their time voluntarily. People who work for charities, whether in paid or volunteer roles tend to be people who are motivated by what they do rather than how much they earn. So when you get an organisation such as BLG Mind that is well run, delivers high quality services and is known and trusted by its local community, the value it delivers is immense.
I have seen that the voluntary sector is well placed to meet the needs of our diverse communities and some of the most vulnerable people in our society. But in order to do so in a sustainable way it needs to be properly funded and given an equal voice at the table, alongside statutory providers.
I am very grateful to my colleagues in the NHS for supporting me to be a trustee, and chair, and giving me time out from ‘the day job’ to do it. I have learnt so much which I have been able to bring to my other roles and I’d thoroughly recommend it.