Q & A with Mark Cunningham - Chief Executive of The Fed

As part of our series of conversations with Chief Executive's of member bodies, we have asked Mark Cunningham, Chief Executive of The Fed in Manchester to answer this months Question and Answer blog.


Mark_Cunningham_Gold_Standard_Award.jpg1. How have you found your first year as Chief Executive of The Fed?

Firstly I can’t believe it has been a year, time certainly flies and whilst there have been some roller coaster moments it has been fun.  I have found my first year exciting, challenging, frustrating but very rewarding. After 21 years working for the Fed you don’t stay with the same organisation for so long unless you enjoy your job, the people you work with and gain great satisfaction from the work that you do and this has always been the case.

Nothing quite prepares you for the responsibility of leading such a great organisation that supports so many people. With over 340 employees and 300+ volunteers there is always something happening and it took a little while for me to relax. I am lucky that we have such a great management team and a very supportive and skilled Board of Trustees who have made the transition to Chief Executive so much easier.

2. What has been your biggest success so far, both individually and as an organisation?

In my first month I had to give a speech at our fundraising dinner to almost 500 people. For the previous 8 dinners I had happily sat at the back and watched Karen Phillips do an amazing job, so it was a tough act to follow. It would have been nice to have a gentler introduction to the role but I was relieved it went well. Leading the organisation on a daily basis through a number of significant challenges is perhaps how I would define my success this year, as well as maintaining my sense of humour although some may disagree with the last bit. Being part of the devolution conversation and plans in Greater Manchester has also been exciting and hopefully we can be part of something revolutionary when it comes to health and social care.

Organisationally it has been hard and despite some harsh funding cuts to our community services, we are still delivering a fantastic service to vulnerable people in the community. Our cafe and gardens have brought the community into our care home and we have seen visitor numbers increase to almost a 1,000 a week, how amazing is that!

3. What has been your biggest challenge so far, both individually and as an organisation?

Personally letting go of some of the operational responsibilities and managing the competing demands from funders, statutory bodies, CQC and growing expectations in a world with less and less money. Getting this balance right is an art form and a skill which I will hopefully develop along with a thicker skin. I now look at CEO’s from other larger organisations with a growing sense of admiration.

Anyone working in social care will point to the pitiful funding. The combined funding from the NHS and local council in Bury for end of life nursing care is approximately £3.65 an hour; this figure still shocks me every day! With the National Living wage set to increase along with employer’s pension contributions, finding the resources to maintain much needed, excellent quality care is our biggest challenge.

4. What exciting projects have you got coming up?

Our new Dementia home is due for completion in June. Based on our village site, the new care facility will offer a fantastic living environment that connects directly to our award winning seaside themed garden. It will enable us to provide more homely, person centred care and will help ensure we can meet the increasingly complex needs of an ageing population with dementia. People can now take a virtual tour of our gardens and public spaces via our website. We are looking to develop additional short stay rehabilitation accommodation and explore how we can use technology to support people’s well-being. Nothing ever stands still, we are constantly changing and evolving as the needs and demographics of the community change.

5. How is being a member of the JLC helping the Fed?

Being part of a wider dialogue regarding residential care and the care strategy for the Jewish community both now and for the future is incredibly important. The drive and enthusiasm shown by Simon Johnson has helped develop a growing link between Jewish care providers, which hopefully will lead to a more joined up way of thinking across different communities; partnership and mutual support has to be the way forward.

The support of Marc Levy the North West Regional Manager has been invaluable. Marc has worked really hard and opened some great doors for us politically, helping to showcase what the Jewish community offers not just to its own community but the wider community as well. I really appreciate the hard work Marc has put in on our behalf and that of other organisations in the North West, he is a great advocate for the community. After saying nice things about him, he will have to buy me a coffee!