Our new CEO
An interview with Cath Hoskins (SMART’s CEO) by James Whitcomb (SMART’s Communications Manager).
I first met Cath over 5 years ago at SMART’s drug and alcohol service in Windsor & Maidenhead. I was a Service User at the time and Cath was the Service Manager. Today it seemed a little surreal, to be sat in our Head Office meeting room waiting to interview her as SMART’s new CEO.
I’d prepared a list of interview questions; all the standard ones, ‘tell me a little about yourself’, ‘what do you enjoy’ ‘when did you join SMART’ etc. When Cath arrived I tried to act like a journalist and conduct a formal interview, but we soon pushed the questions aside and started chatting. Cath spoke about life before SMART:
“I was born in Wales and brought up in Reading, then Cardiff [Cath still has a broad Welsh accent]. My parents were hard core socialists; we marched for everything! Saving schools, the miners’ strike, equality for all. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, it was a lesson in campaigning and being an advocate for those unable to have their own voice listened to.
“I had a fascination with crime, so I completed a Masters in Criminology and Criminal Justice. I was unsure about how to use my new skills, but there was a Prison opening up nearby and I became a Prison Officer.”
I can’t imagine you as a Prison Officer Cath…
“I grew so much in that job; it was tough work. I learnt a lot about empathy, compassion and respect and how important it is to remain non-judgemental.”
Cath told me more about her career after the prison, the jobs were varied, all managerial and across the NHS, Private and Charitable sectors. Her roles included managing contracts for Health Authorities, working in Probation with drug and alcohol clients and managing a drug intervention programme (DIP). During this time Cath lived in Wales.
Cath and her family relocated to England towards the end of 2010. Pregnant at the time with her third son, Cath explained that it was important to take a job without managerial responsibilities. “I wanted to be able to do my job and be there for my family. I joined SMART in 2010 as a Recovery Worker, supporting specialist prescribing and alcohol clients in Windsor and Maidenhead. Although I’d been managing recovery services previously, it was really refreshing going back to work one-on-one with Service Users.”
Cath soon progressed in SMART and went on to Manage a DIP service in Bucks and to implement the Custody Intervention Programme across The Thames Valley. After a brief time managing SMART’s residential treatment centre in Oxford Cath became the Service Manager at SMART’s community drug and alcohol service in Windsor and Maidenhead. “I managed the service for almost 2 years. We offered assessments, substitute prescribing clinics, alcohol detox, needle exchange, group activities, recovery sessions and counselling. We built a great team and did some amazing work. This time helped us design SMART’s new model and approach, which focuses around community.”
Next Cath became Head of Quality & Compliance, then Director of Corporate Services. These roles focused on quality, compliance and governance. “Having worked in many different locations at SMART I was aware that we were doing fantastic work. I wanted to find new ways of sharing best practice, to streamline our resources, while ensuring we were delivering the best quality services. We did this by creating quality assurance mechanisms that complemented each other across all the different functions. We embedded some excellent practice during this time.”
In 2016 SMART merged with asc in Luton and during this time the charity grew exponentially. Cath led the merger and became Deputy CEO. “I worked with our CEO and Senior Management Team to ensure that we had the right structure to be able to provide support across the organisation.”
“I’ve worked throughout the entire organisation, which is incredibly useful when becoming the CEO. I have a thorough understanding of all our different services and the needs of our Service Users and staff across the charity.”
So what are your plans as CEO then Cath?
“SMART has been through significant change over the past 12 months, we have diversified our services and have started some amazing new projects. While it’s exciting to be involved in new things, it’s vital that we continue to support and grow our existing services.”
“I want to focus on what it means to be a charity. I will be looking at our purpose, our identity, our charitable profile and culture; I am keen to build on new and innovative ideas, such as SMART Chat and to explore ways of generating income to support our charitable causes.”
“As a CEO I want to be visible and approachable. We all use services every day, and we want and expect a good service. I want to ensure that the people who use our services receive a warm welcome, are treated fairly and are supported without judgement, in a safe environment where the people supporting them are caring and believe in them. Having recently spent time visiting our services I have seen many outstanding examples of this.”
“I want to build on our communities; to encourage connection and communication. It’s a testing time for small charities right now, it’s vital that we [our teams] share the same vision and goals. We must have a unified voice; one which echoes the voices of our staff, our Trustees and most importantly those who use our services.”
Cath Hoskins commenced being CEO for SMART on 31st July 2017.