Malcolm's Story

Malcolm's Story

I recently met with our Chairman, Malcolm Cassells, on how he came to be a part of Alabaré and his thoughts for the charity’s future and challenges.


How did you first come to Alabaré Malcolm? What piqued your interest?

“I was on the board of Salisbury College at the time with Andrew Lord. He approached me to ask if I was interested in joining a charity, and whilst I wasn't looking for anything at that point, I was quite open to it. I was then introduced to John and Alicia Proctor and had a very long conversation with John. I was impressed with what Alabaré was doing and found it quite humbling. I saw compassion and concern that went way beyond anything I thought went on in this sector and so decided that I would happily join the board.”

We have certainly experienced some pretty tumultuous times, which nobody could have foreseen.

“It's unique. It’s a shame as I was on an induction program, meeting people, going out to visit our services. I found that very helpful, talking with clients, people in our accommodation, getting a feel for how they saw things. It was a shame that was curtailed by COVID but I hope to do more. 

 The most difficult areas have possibly been with our learning disability clients where a lot of their families decided to look after them at home during this time. Closing the rehabilitation side during this period was particularly difficult for some of them. The sooner we get that fully up and running the better. But it'll be incremental and will take time. It's been an unusual time. The teams have done a fantastic job.

As a charity, we haven’t historically campaigned or actively challenged the ‘system’. Is there scope for Alabaré?  

We have to work with our partners, especially the ones that fund us through our contracts with local authorities. We need to be aware of this as we speak more publicly. Many of our ambassadors are quite influential and campaigning would go on behind the scenes, but I think we can be more overt, and try to explain to the Government that policies are not helping, how those policies should change, and what should be done. It’s not just homelessness; we're getting more involved in the mental health field, and that is a very big issue and has been for some time. If anything, it's become more acute because of the cutbacks that have happened. 


The reality is that we are funded to a large degree from sources that have a political element to them and we just need to be sensible in the way we do things. We ought to be willing to answer that question in an open, but careful way. It's better to be on the inside at national level and influencing people who understand the problem, to explaining the problems to the issues and seeing a change. We are a small organisation but if we can expand our size and let's say we expanded to roughly five times our size then almost certainly the press would be ringing us up.

 What do you see are opportunities for us as an organisation? 

I think we need to grow, but it is needed as opposed to just wanting to grow. If we can expand, not only do we have more influence, but most importantly, we can help more people. And that's actually what it's about. At the moment we can help a certain number of people. But our heart is to do more, to serve more, to see more lives changed and more people able to lead fulfilling lives. That could mean an increase in the services that we offer and that could be done through partnerships with other charities who are like-minded; it could be done through acquiring other organisations, based on the synergies that they have with us, but I'm happy to look at how it could be done through new types of services. We think that some of the mental health services that we might get involved in will be new to us. And it depends on how we then link with NHS mental health organisations and how we support them in what they do. We wouldn’t be looking at acute care. We're looking at the support we can give to people to avoid them needing acute care. And so what we're doing with the café and the developments that we've had at Riverside Sanctuary is really all about enabling people to continue to be self-sufficient and able to cope with ongoing mental health issues.

The Government has committed to growing mental health. 

It's been a long time coming. It's one thing to say that and it's another thing to do it when there aren’t enough trained people to do it. That is the biggest issue for the NHS and us. We can't aspire to provide all these services and not be able to recruit. Over the next few years, it will be quite difficult. There's a shortage of adequate numbers being trained through a lot of NHS services. Mental health is no different and they're struggling. It’s getting the right people that will provide services with compassion and have a real heart for it. 

How do you see the next 30 years?

I don't see any limit to the size that I would hope that we can grow to, but it'll take time. We're not identifying organisations that are ideal to be taken over, but we do know that sometimes trustees of an organisation might be looking to reach a conclusion and we might then step in. A lot of that comes through networking and because quite often these things have a limited timescale we then need to be very responsive. As we get bigger, we don't want to lose that ability to take up opportunities. And be nimble. While I'm chairman, the development of the board is a key priority. We need to ensure that the right skills are on the board and that those people on the board are fully engaged with the services that we're providing. Its main role is one of ensuring that the organisation operates in a safe and financially secure way. There are a lot of governance responsibilities.

Finally, I asked Malcolm what his wishes would be for our charitable sector.

“The ideal scenario is nobody needing our services. That would be fabulous but I don't think there's any likelihood of that. And so the question is, how is it going to look going forward? Is there going to be more need, and how would, or should that need be met? At the moment that’s not clear.


“I’ve been on the board now for about 13 years and it's a privilege to serve. I am a Christian and I believe Christians should be looking out for the people that are disadvantaged in society. Jesus talked a lot about the poor, caring for them, to do good things for them. So it fits with my philosophy in that respect and the nature of the way we do things feels good, that we can touch the lives of so many people. It's a privilege. And it's even more of a privilege to chair the organisation which I've now been doing for 18 months or so now.”


Interview host: Nicky Matthews

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