Senior Associate Natasha Smith from CooperBurnett LLP currently supports Demelza in the role as a Trustee. Hear from her on her experience in this role, what she’s discovered and how some of her misconceptions have been dispelled.

"What an interesting and varied time I have had on the Demelza board of trustees. Joining in October 2022 meant that I joined during the very first year of Demelza’s new five-year strategy, which was an exciting and busy time for everyone involved in the organisation.

Demelza celebrated its 25th anniversary last year and is therefore at an important stage of looking back and reflecting on how far it has come and how much it has been able to achieve for the people who need its services. In addition, it is also looking ahead and determining what it needs to do in order to secure its future and continue to be there for the families that need them the most.

It has been a steep learning curve and I feel I needed to hit the ground running! I have learnt a lot already but am also very aware there are many other areas for me to learn more about and become involved in, to be able to support this wonderful charity as much as I can. ‍

What it involves‍

The key role of a trustee of Demelza is to act as a ‘critical friend’ of the organisation. It involves attending quarterly board meetings with the board of trustees and members of the senior leadership team (SLT) and discussing a range of important matters affecting the charity. We are there to constructively challenge the senior leadership team and ensure they are held accountable for their actions and decisions and to ensure the charity is meeting its key purpose and objectives, i.e. to provide extraordinary care to extraordinary children.

Each trustee is also appointed to a sub-committee consisting of a smaller group of trustees and SLT members, based on their background of skills and experience. Because of my background in employment law and HR, I also attend quarterly meetings for the Resources committee where we discuss matters specifically affecting the resources of Demelza, including its People, Finance, IT and Facilities.‍

What I have been able to offer ‍

I think I have mostly been able to offer my insight into how the world of work has changed since the Covid-19 pandemic for many organisations and how employers are seeking to address the issues they face. For example, I have been able to use my experience of working with a range of clients in relation to flexible working, recruitment and retention issues, staff wellbeing initiatives and the impact of cost-of-living factors. I have also attended some external events on behalf of Demelza, to promote the charity and to highlight the importance of the work it does and its plans for the future. ‍

What I have learnt ‍

I have to admit, before joining Demelza, I did not really have any idea of what a children’s hospice did, other than to sadly provide end-of-life care to very sick children. Something that none of us ever want to think about.

What I have discovered, however, is that there is so much more to it and Demelza does an incredible job of providing a range of services to families, including not only the children themselves but their siblings, parents and grandparents.

Families can use their wonderful facilities, including a hydrotherapy pool, soft play/sensory areas and attend music and art therapy sessions, helping them to create special memories that they simply wouldn’t get elsewhere.

The use of the word ‘hospice’ can be a very scary thing for many people but I am happy to be helping to dispel the myth of what a children’s hospice can do."

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