And for 15 of those years Mary Gillingham has been very much a ‘person of significance’. ADASS, and before it ADSS, have been organisations providing a consistent source of support, challenge and resourcing to 'rookie' aspiring and appointed directors. As with many august organisations, our presidents have come and gone but Mary’s enduring presence has kept the organisation on track in its important work of providing leadership to the social care profession in local government and, increasingly, with health and alongside partner social care organisations.
In Mary's time we have seen some of the most significant legal and policy changes in decades within the health and social care sphere. Multiple legislative changes in health service management and in regulation and inspection have been a consistent feature, along with ongoing and significant developments for the profession culminating in the complete revision of our legal framework in the passing of the Care Act.
The legal parting of adult and children's delivery of services (even though we know many are combining again) required the establishment of two separate professional bodies in ADCS and ADASS. Mary's unique experience and steady counsel supported the challenging decision-making necessary at the time. She leaves at a time when the leadership of social care is requiring more flexibility than ever before as authorities combine roles variously with children's services, housing, public health, community and universal services. Our next horizon is undoubtedly a joint future with the health service.
For longer than most of us can remember, Mary has been the ‘face’ of ADASS, with always a warm welcome in the office at Local Government House and spearheading the team to support us all. Her significant contribution to making the spring seminar happen every year and her steadfast support for the autumn conference has been valued by all of us. Mary has brought consistency and continuity to an organisation which, by its very nature, has an ever-changing membership and leadership. She has given her own style of leadership to our collective team, which brings to mind a quote I came across recently with words describing Mary’s style with uncanny accuracy: “leadership is never an avenue to be self-serving, but a platform to render great service to people.”
Her loyalty to the organisation is legendary and her knowledge of the social care landscape and personalities, acquired over long years, is profound. She has uniquely worked with some of the greatest leaders in social care who are now contributing at the highest levels in organisations across the sector. To all of us, she is warm, smiling, friendly, caring and helpful. To visitors and newcomers, she is professional and approachable, always ready with wise advice and direction drawn from her vast reservoir of inside knowledge.
Mary will leave behind her many colleagues, both past and present, whose respect and admiration she has won with ease. We will remember her as a friend and much valued part of the ADASS infrastructure, which will not be the same without her. There will be opportunities for us all to say thank you and farewell over the next couple of months but we want to place on record our appreciation of her long years of service, and of her loyalty, support and friendship. For all of us, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with her. And she will be greatly missed.
For Mary, too, this is both an ending and a beginning. She has organised her last conference, rounded up her last president’s team, and in her usual style, is helping to plan for the next phase of ADASS. Now it is time for her to embark on this new phase in her life called retirement and the pleasures and adventures we hope it will bring. She leaves with ADASS’s very best wishes for a long, happy and undoubtedly well-deserved retirement.
Thank you, Mary. We owe you a great deal.
Immediate Past President