Richard Williams

Richard Williams

LEAH chair: ‘It is a really exciting time for LEAH’

Richard Williams was appointed LEAH’s chair at the end of last year. He explained how he got involved in LEAH and what vision he sees for the charity as it enters its 37th year.

Richard joined LEAH in 2016 as a volunteer when he began teaching English to his first client. He went on to join the trustee board in the middle of 2017, becoming deputy chair quite soon after.

He had spent 34 years in the civil service, mainly working in the Ministry of Defence, as well as working in both the Cabinet Office and Department for Employment for short periods.

He also spent two years on secondment to a disability charity, which gave him an insight into the issues faced by the third sector.

Richard said he was inspired to join LEAH following his retirement from the civil service when he moved to Moscow, Russia for a couple of years and got a job managing the British Embassy’s property.

He said: “One thing that that experience did for me is to get me to understand something about living in an environment and culture where you didn’t really speak the language very well.”

He said that this helped him empathise with how some of the clients who work with LEAH must feel.

Reflecting on how he is finding his role as the charity’s chair so far, Richard said that one thing he feels about LEAH is that it “is full of people that are absolutely committed to doing what it says it wants to do, which is to teach people from disadvantaged and complex backgrounds to speak English and get integrated into society”.

‘LEAH's changing context and the future’

He added that the board takes seriously its oversight responsibility for LEAH's long-term future. While the charity has a sound track record of securing grant and statutory funding there are other opportunities trustees want to explore to ensure the financial sustainability of the organisation. This work dovetails with LEAH's commitment to continuously respond imaginatively to our clients' needs and aspirations for education, employment and community life.

With the publication of the Government's integration Green Paper, there is both national and local focus on ways to support refugees and migrants to become more active in their communities. With this spotlight on English-language services it means the climate is right for exploring new offerings and developing new partnerships. Richard highlighted that LEAH trustees are keen to do both. “It is a really exciting time for the charity.”