Dr. Leigh Vallance

Bolton Hospice CEO Dr Leigh Vallance was recently interviewed for the Bolton News - Below you will find her interview and what the hospice means to her.

(article courtesy of Bolton News 5 November 2018)

A STRONG social conscience and a practical streak have guided Leigh Vallance through life.

For the past seven years, she has been Chief Executive of Bolton Hospice and feels her role here is “absolutely right”.

She might have found it hard to articulate just where her future would take her growing up as one of six children in Tamworth, Staffordshire.

Her father worked in the petroleum industry – “We were working-class but my father worked hard and became regional director of BP.”

Her mother, a clever woman, had “a life of cooking, cleaning, washing and ironing” and Leigh swore that this was not for her.

Always “a bit of a rebel”, she hated school, partly because they insisted she take cookery instead of technical drawing which she preferred.

The result was she left school with no qualifications but with a general desire

At a time of high unemployment, especially among young people, she got into volunteering via a WEA (Workers’ Educational Association) course on helping unemployed people access benefits.

“I found I understood it and that I was useful to people. I had a clear sense of purpose.”

Leigh felt, though, she “could do more” and so became involved in the Women’s Movement, helping to establish a refuge for women suffering domestic violence.

She also realised that she was capable of a decent education so went back to college at 23 to take her A-levels before doing a sociology degree at Stafford University.

To gain some money, she worked part-time in charge of community service workers “where I learned to toughen up and how to resist group pressure!”.

When she qualified, she took a job with homeless women in Birmingham, where her social education continued through the host of issues involved. She still felt, however, that this was not where she wanted to be long-term.

Leigh got a job in North Warwickshire with CVS (Community and Voluntary Services), staying for 10 years and eventually becoming its chief executive.

Still wanting to extend her capabilities and make a difference, however, she moved to Durham and worked for the Rural Community Council in areas devastated by mine closures.

After three years, her desire to make a practical difference eventually took her to the charity sector and Norfolk.

Here, she was involved with Break, a charity providing holidays for vulnerable young people and children. She turned a £4 million turnover into £10 million before leaving for her role with Bolton Hospice.

“I felt I was in the right place in Bolton,” she explained. “Bolton is very real and open and cares and this flows everywhere. The town judges people not for what they are but for what they do.

“I was brought in to do a job right for this time — to generate growth, professional services and good organisation.”

Leigh, who was given an Honorary Doctorate for her work by the University of Bolton, believes the hospice is “the best ever – what’s not to like?”

She is proud to be part of such a skilled team of experts and of the fact that the people of Bolton support it every year to raise the £3.4 million it needs to provide its free care and support.

“Every pound, every single penny, is spent wisely keeping this service going,” she added.

Her own experience losing her much-loved younger sister to cancer five years ago – she died in a hospice - have also influenced her professional decisions since. “Our service is all about helping people and I’ve seen the difference it makes.”

Finally, Leigh Vallance is in the right job.

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