Change at the top as charity marks 30th year

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Ann Marie Docherty is retiring from Fair Deal, with Fiona Dunwoodie named as only the second chief executive in the organisation's history

17th September 2019 by Gareth Jones 0 Comments

A charity which is marking a landmark anniversary is undergoing a change of chief executive for the first time.

Fair Deal, which aims to shape and deliver services for disabled people in Glasgow, is celebrating its 30th birthday this year.

And the organisation is preparing for a new chapter with long-serving chief executive Ann Marie Docherty retiring this month. She will be replaced by Fiona Dunwoodie, who has 16 years’ experience of working in the sector and most recently served as a branch leader for Cornerstone.

Docherty, who was appointed as the charity’s first member of staff in 1991, said she feels the time is right for change.

“In some ways the anniversary is the reason for my decision” she told TFN. “I’m in my 29th year and when I made the decision to retire, I felt it was the right time to think about change.

“The world is changing around us and this seemed like a good time to hand over to somebody else to take the organisation through the next phase and continuing our innovative practice.”

Fair Deal started as a campaigning group around conditions at Leonard Castle Hospital, with family members of those who had spent time in the hospital coming together to call for better standards of living for disabled people and their carers.

It has grown to become a social care charity that employs more than 120 members of staff, with an annual turnover of £3.3 million.

In the early days, Docherty – who had previously worked for Strathclyde Regional Council and One Parent Families – said she feared the organisation may not survive. The charity opened its Castlehall Housing Project in 1991, but struggled to meet initial targets set by funders.

“We had significant challenges very early on. The funding was based on people contributing and the business plan had set out how many people would be in our accommodation within a year. We didn’t manage to hit the target. In the first year we were looking at a £20,000 deficit.

“Originally, I feared we weren’t going to get through the first year. But it stabilised. Over the years, different funding opportunities came about but in our sector you can never be complacent.

“Now we are working with more than 200 people in a variety of different settings.”

The charity has diversified its operations, and alongside providing support around housing and care, now offers short breaks at Ardentinny Outdoor Education Centre; provides a full calendar of leisure activities throughout the week; and is working closely with other organisations in Glasgow on a range of projects that aim to improve the lives of disabled people.

Although the charity may have grown and evolved, the issues it provides support on have not changed.

“The issues are still there for families,” Docherty said. “In all of these years we may have changed how we operate but issues such as respite for carers, meaningful employment and educational opportunities for disabled people are still very important in society.”

A short transition period will help Dunwoodie settle into her new role, and she told TFN she is excited to get started.

“The work Fair Deal undertakes is sector leading and I absolutely want to ensure that the organisation continues to be at the forefront of innovation and best practice.

“Ann Marie has been here for such a long time and been a great leader. There’s a great culture that has been created here and it’s very welcoming.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to spend some time with her and the team. There are huge shoes to fill but I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”