Samaritans appoints Julie Bentley as new chief executive

16 Oct 2020 News

Julie Bentley

Julie Bentley will join suicide prevention charity Samaritans as chief executive next month.

She is taking over from Ruth Sutherland, who announced her plans to leave last October and was initially expected to depart in the spring.

Jeremy Hughes, formerly chief executive of the Alzheimer's Society, was announced as her replacement, but the charity decided not to proceed with the appointment following allegations about the use of non-disclosure agreements at Alzheimer's Society. 

Three decades' experience

Bentley joins Samaritans with three decades of experience in the voluntary sector, having led Girlguiding, the Family Planning Association, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and most recently Action for Children.

She is currently joint vice chair of NCVO and has held trustee roles at several other charities, including Shelter. She has an MBA from the Open University.

Bentley said: “I have long admired the work of Samaritans and it is a tremendous privilege to have been chosen for this role. I’m really excited to be joining colleagues; volunteers and staff across the Samaritans family.

“I also look forward to working in partnership with the many fabulous people and organisations who share a passion for addressing and responding to the significant mental health challenges we face as a society.”

The appointment follows a selection process led by a committee of experienced Samaritans' trustees and senior volunteers, supported by Saxton Bampfylde, an executive search consultancy.

Jenni McCartney, chair of Samaritans, said: “Julie’s wealth of experience in the third sector, particularly her experience within a charity with organisation-wide volunteer leadership, meant she was an exceptional choice, from a list of high-calibre candidates.

“As well as an outstanding professional career, Julie has a warm and engaging personality. We look forward to welcoming her to Samaritans.”

Jeremy Hughes appointment was reversed in February 

In January 2020 the charity appointed Jeremy Hughes as chief executive, and he was due to take up the role in May. 

Hughes had resigned from the Alzheimer's Society in September 2019.  

However, in February 2020 the Charity Commission had said it would investigate claims that the Alzheimer’s Society has spent up to £750,000 on payouts to staff who agreed to sign non-disclosure agreements.

The Alzheimer’s Society denied this figure, and denied using non-disclosure agreements inappropriately, but Samaritans ultimately decided not to go ahead with Hughes’ appointment.

In May the Commission concluded its regulatory compliance case, clearing the Alzheimer's Society of wrongdoing. However the charity committed to greater transparency around its use of non-disclosure agreements.

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