This week, November 2-6th is Trustees Week, an opportunity to highlight and showcase the vital role that the UK's one million trustees play in our charities.

At YSS, our Board comprises eight trustees, all bringing different experiences, strengths and areas of expertise. They give their time voluntarily and their role is to ensure the charity is run effectively, providing oversight and governance and ensuring that all decisions put the needs of our service users first.

Here, our Chair, David Chantler OBE and trustee Sandra Kelley, give an insight into their own experiences of being part of YSS, how the charity has adapted during Covid, and their hopes for the future. 

What has been the biggest challenge during the past six months that the board has had to tackle?

Sandra: Covid brought with it major new uncertainties for everyone -  service users, staff, volunteers and trustees - and so we were all dealing with the unknown.  As a board, our biggest challenges were to ensure that YSS continued to support our service users and we were determined to continue to deliver our contractual requirements.

Throughout, we have been guided by our core values of dignity and respect for all service users, staff, volunteers and trustees; flexibility and innovation in our approach and practice at this time of significant change; 'making it happen' in so many ways, whether this be in adapting to working from home for staff, virtual clubs for young carers and Zoom board meetings.

David: Covid, and in particular adapting to the changes in what is a period of huge change for us anyway with long serving and much respected Chair of Trustees and CEO moving on.

How will the board, and YSS, have to adapt in order to respond to the ongoing Covid crisis?

Sandra: For me, dealing with the ongoing uncertainty both over everyone’s future lives and the likely timescales is the biggest challenge but one which we have to accept in order to survive and hopefully to thrive. We will require flexibility in our approach for a long time to come.  We’ve responded well  to the challenges so far and we will build on this, learning from both the positives and negatives.

David: I think it’s about playing to our strengths of flexibility, fleetness of foot and integrity and recognising that these may look different in a changing environment, but it’s also a willingness to learn; what works well, what might have lessons for when the pandemic has receded, not hankering after what had been “normal”. In some ways it’s a huge challenge but in others it is the same old truths, keeping an eye on the outcomes, not being fixated by doing what is familiar and comfortable.

What do you enjoy about being a trustee of YSS?

Sandra: I enjoy working for a local organisation that I believe in, using my skills and experience alongside other trustees with similar values. It’s been a great way to meet new people too! 

David: Contributing to the “can do” spirit of YSS in a role that, hopefully can benefit from my work experience pre- retirement, while recognising that it and I have a shelf life, and that it’s not forever.

What do you hope for the charity sector as a whole, and YSS in particular, as we emerge from Covid-19?

Sandra: I’d hope that there will be a greater recognition of the important role that the charity sector plays in so many areas of our lives, and how well it can respond at times of crisis. I also think the huge amounts of informal support and volunteering nationally over the last six months demonstrates that there are probably many more people locally who might be interested in volunteering for YSS, maybe even as a trustee!

David: Undoubtedly, Covid will redefine the environment. Because of the effect on fundraising, on the priorities of funders and commissions during the epidemic and because of the time it will take to recover. I also think that it may well pose long term strategic questions about the role of the sector. Should key services like hospices have been left vulnerable to the vagaries of charitable funding? Have our views of the role of the state changed, e.g. the meals for children controversy? Will the relative flexibility of the sector be seen as a positive after this and not role creep.