St John Ambulance chief executive to step down

Charity

The chief executive of St John Ambulance will step down at the end of March, the first aid charity has announced today.

Martin Houghton-Brown, who joined the charity in January 2018, is understood to be taking up a yet-to-be announced leadership position at another charity.

St John Ambulance praised Houghton-Brown for his “extraordinary leadership” and said he had successfully steered the charity through the coronavirus pandemic, “delivering for the nation in a time of crisis when St John people were called to serve”.

It said he had also been instrumental in helping the charity develop its volunteering and youth offering in order to train “the next generation of young lifesavers”.

In September, SJA said about 10 per cent of roles among its 1,700 staff were at risk as part of a major restructure.

The charity said it was changing its approach in response to a post-pandemic downturn in revenue due to lower demand for workplace first aid training courses.

In 2021, Houghton-Brown apologised to staff and volunteers who had experienced a culture of bullying at the charity and vowed to do better.

It came after Third Sector was contacted by multiple volunteers and employees at the charity who reported a “pervading culture of bullying” and a “cult-like” atmosphere where complaints about bullying were “swept under the rug”.

Houghton-Brown, who before joining SJA was chief executive of the homelessness charity Depaul and led Missing People prior to that, said: “It has been a privilege to serve for these past six years. My time at St John will always be an extraordinary chapter and I have learned a great deal.

“As I support the transformation programme in these last few months, I am grateful for the support of an incredible leadership team.

“I wish my successor and all St John people every success as they build for the future.”

Stuart Shilson, chair of St John Ambulance, said: “I want to thank Martin for his service to St John over the last six years and for his extraordinary leadership during a tough time for the not-for-profit sector.

“Post-pandemic, St John, like many charities, is experiencing a challenging financial situation. We continue to work through the transformation programme to enable us to deliver a sustainable charity for the future, focused on community first aid.

“I am grateful for Martin’s leadership through the first phase of our recovery until the end of March, and look forward to the opportunity to bring in a fresh perspective for the next stage of that journey.

“I, and the whole of St John, wish Martin well in his next leadership role and look forward to his continued friendship and support for the mission of this wonderful charity.”

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