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A turning point in my career

Julie Bass, Chief Executive, Turning Point

Julie Bass, Chief Executive, Turning Point

Julie Bass, Chief Executive at Turning Point, talks about her experience of  stepping into her first Chief Executive role as the first lockdown was coming into force.

I moved into the Chief Executive role at Turning Point on 1st April 2020, 3 weeks after the World Health Organisation announced that we were in a pandemic. I have always taken my role in delivering safe, high-quality services very seriously, but this felt like an even greater weight of responsibility. We rapidly pulled together, united by a shared determination to keep people safe, be that through rolling out infection control measures into our care homes, moving our NHS talking therapies services online or encouraging people to take up the vaccine. Organisationally, we were well placed, in terms of our governance, communication and risk management processes. Given the choice, I probably would not have chosen to take on my first chief executive role during a pandemic, but I am also so proud of how Turning Point responded.

I entered the world of health and social care via an unconventional route starting work at 18 on a trainee programme with a global insurance firm and eventually going on to become a chartered insurer. I worked in London and Hong Kong and by 26 I was HR Manager for the Asia Pacific Basin. When my children were small, I wanted to travel less so I set myself up as a consultant which was how I first came across Turning Point. I was so impressed by what I saw that I felt compelled to seek a permanent role within the organisation. I approached the then Chief Executive to enquire about opportunities. I initially got involved in projects, before taking on an Interim Operational Director role in 2009. After nine months, I became permanent leading to my appointment as group managing director in 2016.

I knew nothing about the delivery of health and social care services when I began my operational role at Turning Point.  I was, however, experienced in risk management, people and leadership and it soon became clear that these were crucial ingredients in providing high quality health and social care. My time in the world of insurance taught me that creating good teams is key to success in any field. I know that if you invest in your colleagues, they will invest in you, and this has stood me in good stead at Turning Point.

Following Lord Adebowale’s announcement that he intended to step down after 20 years as Chief Executive, I had to think very carefully about whether I really wanted the top job.   My roles previously were behind the scenes, and I therefore didn’t have the external profile that the previous Chief Executive had.  But I very quickly realised that I didn’t need to emulate Victor; I could take a different approach to engaging with the external world.  I am part of a supportive group of women Chief Executives which has provided an invaluable source of peer support alongside other leadership networks like the VODG CEOs and the Association of Mental Health Providers.

I have always been committed to supporting other women in their careers, for example through mentoring and championing women’s rights as well as amplifying the voices of people we support. I recognise that my position as Chief Executive gives me a great platform to do this.  The health and social care workforce is predominantly female and the majority of unpaid carers are women. Today, the sector is facing unprecedented challenges. As a woman in a health and social care leadership role, I am duty bound to raise awareness of some of the issues that disproportionately affect women such as low pay and tightening eligibility thresholds but also to champion the amazing work that happens in the sector.

Kirsty

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