The Relatives & Residents Association: Judy Downey and Gillian Dalley discuss their relationship

Judy Downey, chair, Relatives & Residents Association

Gillian and I share the same values and sense of purpose for the organisation. We both have had the experience of mothers in residential care.

We share a background in research, but both of us have worked in areas where its practical application is the key focus. Gillian is often aware of aspects of research I am not in touch with and her background links have enabled us to work in partnership with several academic departments on projects of mutual interest. Being a non-executive director on a major NHS foundation trust with a good reputation also gives her additional strengths and experiences.

My civil service and political links have complemented Gillian’s more specialised links with the world of gerontology. We are good at sparking ideas off from each other and often do joint responses or papers to policy initiatives of one kind or another. We have often written grant applications together and we can share the bitter frustration every time the Lottery rejects us!

In the last year, we can claim the credit for increasing the R&RA’s workforce to six full-time staff and the volunteer workforce to even more.

Having wondered not so long ago about having too much office space, we are now almost bursting out of it with projects about self-funders, home closures, human rights, isolated people in homes, the role of volunteers in homes, prevention of abuse through improving practice, not to mention our superb advice line workers.

Gillian Dalley, chief executive, Relatives & Residents Association

Judy’s longstanding commitment to improving the experience of older people in residential care underpins her dedication to R&RA and has made her its fiercest advocate through both difficult and, now, good times. I can rely on her to provide leadership and support whenever needed – exactly what a chief exec needs!

In practical terms, her professional experience of regulation, having been a key player in the development of regulatory policy and practice during her years in the civil service, complements my previous experience in policy research and developing quality standards in both health and social care. Happily, our views about these subjects are similar and this obviously works to our advantage.

One of the most positive aspects of our working relationship is that it is based on respect for each other’s strengths. For us, the relationship between chair and chief executive is thus one that is greater than the sum of its parts.

➔ Find out more about the R&RA’s objectives and work

This article appeared in the 8 November issue under the headline “Dovetailing at the top for older people in care, and relatives”


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