Rebecca Weinberg – St Gemma’s Hospice

Introducing Rebecca Weinberg

Rebecca Weinberg chairs the board of trustees at St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds, West Yorkshire. She also leads the AoC Yorkshire and Humber regional group of volunteers.Rebecca Weinberg 

Having initially qualified as a teacher, Rebecca worked in the statutory sector as a youth worker and in residential social work. She was a manager with the CAB. Her leadership roles have included shaping delivery of social care provision to people with visual and physical disabilities and working with young adults with learning disabilities in a residential further education setting.

In 2004 she was recruited as CEO of Leeds Jewish Welfare Board, which is a medium sized charity at the forefront of social care delivery in Leeds and offers vital residential and community led services to enable people to live independent lives. Rebecca retired in 2014 but maintains several voluntary roles.

In addition to her CEO experience, Rebecca has previously chaired Voluntary Action Manchester; VOLITION in Leeds, and was deputy chair of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Forum (now known as INVOLVE). She became Chair at St Gemma’s in Oct 2013.

Rebecca is a fellow of the Chartered Manager Institute and a magistrate.

What does your organisation do?

St Gemma’s is an independent hospice established in 1978 by the Sisters of the Cross and Passion to offer high quality end of life care to people of all faiths.  The hospice has a 32 bed inpatient unit, a day unit and a community service operating 7 days per week. Clinical support services include bereavement counselling, therapies, spiritual care and social work.

St Gemma’s also has aSt Gemma's logon academic unit, in partnership with Leeds University, and is recognised internationally as an outstanding model of integrated research, teaching and clinical practice.

Receiving only one third of its funding from statutory sources, St Gemma’s raises funds from fundraising activities and 22 charity shops in the West Yorkshire area.

Why did you become a Chair?

I guess there are two main drivers for me. Firstly I enjoy working with others who share my values and I relish the debate and learning with a diverse group of trustees who bring such a wide range of skills to the table. Having worked with many Chairs in my life as a CEO, I have seen life from both perspectives, and hope that this has given me some insight into the role of Chair.

In addition, I am passionate about the delivery of quality end of life care. Working more closely with the St Gemma’s CEO and her team is a privilege. As Chair, I am able to lead interaction between both the board and the Hospice leadership team; take on a strategic and outward facing role, whilst also seeing at first hand the significant difference that we make together within the hospice and the community.

What do you most enjoy about chairing?

There is never a dull moment! I enjoy the variety of the role, meeting such a wide range of people as an ambassador for the organisation and the challenge that managing diverse views, expectations and defining boundaries at governance level can bring.

Do you have a key tip or lesson to share with your fellow Chairs?

There is a danger that established boards can become a bit too “cosy”. No board can carry members and each trustee must have a meaningful role and purpose, and feel that they are supported and listened to. There must be a limit on the terms of tenure on the board so that people move on and there are fresh ideas introduced at governance level.

Ongoing board development and appraisal is vital and you must lead on the process. For some trustees this may seem to be outside their comfort zone, but establishing a programme of development and appraisal that is seen as supportive and non-threatening is a critical part of your role. This should include appraisal of the Chair too!

I would also add that the relationship between the chair and CEO can either make or break an organisation. It’s a key partnership. The organisation is bigger than either the CEO or the Chair and mutual respect is fundamental.

Why did you join the AoC?

Having been a CEO and finding the support offered by ACEVO invaluable, it has been a natural progression to explore support for Chairs. Both roles can be lonely but hugely rewarding. I was gratified to hear that the AoC had formed and was so excited about the opportunity to share experiences with peers.

The AoC Yorks and Humber regional group was an organic development. In essence we are offering the best of both worlds to Chairs based “up North”, who can access both the activities and events held in London plus the activities that are on offer in the region.

I was a member of the ACEVO North steering group and appreciate the positive value in accessible events for regional members. I am delighted to lead the regional steering group and am fortunate to have the support of extremely skilled and committed colleagues.