20th anniversary: Tony Hunter remembers

Featured article - 28 October 2021
By Tony Hunter, SCIE Chief Executive, 2014-2020

Tony Hunter

Congratulations to everyone associated with SCIE past and present on your 20th anniversary! I can remember when SCIE was set up in 2001 along with two or three other social care focused organisations, none of which survived other than SCIE so that must say something.

With a public, private and charity background, and having most recently been a local authority chief executive, I was delighted to return to my social work and social care roots when I became SCIE’s chief executive in 2014. Our then reputation with our main funder, the DHSC, was as a high quality, very reliable, deliverer of materials and resources which could promote evidence-informed practice.

But as value for money and financial restrictions started to bite, we could not rest on those laurels. So our challenge was to diversify our funding streams, building relationships, developing marketable products and approaches, and offering tailored and flexible improvement support in ways which did not always sit easily alongside what we were known for. We started credible and well-informed improvement, beyond our traditional funding, to make us more sustainable.

So a far more diverse range of activity remained driven by the simple question: “Will our input here align with our values and contribute to the planning and delivery of better care experiences and outcomes?” And core to our work remained our unerring commitment to co-production principles and practices, both in how we operated internally and in all our external projects and initiatives. Frankly it wasn’t always easy to get this right, and there’s a long way to go in embedding these ways of working across public services – but SCIE will remain in the vanguard of ensuring that the emperor really does have clothes.

So it was a busy six years of rapid, and sometimes challenging, period of development before I left in 2020, just as the Covid lockdowns and new ways of remote working really took hold. Leaving was a wrench! I was fortunate to be guided by two excellent chairs, Michael Bichard and Paul Burstow, both of whom pushed and expanded my horizons enormously, alongside many first class people on the board, amongst our staff group, the Co-production Steering Group and key partners in DHSC and other clients and commissioners.

I am proud to have been SCIE’s chief executive, and watch from afar the way Paul, Kathryn and everyone have taken the organisation further forward so effectively in its reach and impact. I raise my glass to the next twenty years and beyond!

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