By his mid twenties he was, very happily, managing a group of hospitals in Lincolnshire. But in 1982 - to the astonishment of friends and colleagues – he resigned to train to be a prison governor.
He worked as a Prison Officer at a local Prison, as a Borstal Housemaster and then an Assistant Governor at a top security prison before moving to a succession of Whitehall posts. This period included working as a Private Secretary to a Home Office Minister, work on reducing delay in the criminal courts, and the introduction of email (he was told it was just a fad) into the criminal justice system.
After six years in Whitehall he returned to the Prison Service in 1997 and joined the Prisons Board in a new post introduced to improve the Service’s poor record in reducing reoffending. When his predecessor suddenly resigned the next year, he was appointed as Director General (Chief Executive). In his dairies, Chris Mullin described him as “decent, humane, level headed. We couldn’t hope to find a better man to put in front of the nation’s jails.”
Following a merger of Prisons and Probation in 2003 he became the first CEO of the National Offender Management Service. During this period he received the Chartered Institute of Management’s Gold Medal for Leadership, the first public sector recipient in ten years of this single annual award.
He resigned from the Civil Service in 2005 to become Chief Executive of Barnardo’s where he stayed for five years, during which he chaired The Campaign To End Child Poverty, and saw Barnardo’s grew by almost 40% to become, once again, the UK's biggest children's charity. He left Barnardo’s in 2011 after a little over five years and was immediately commissioned by The Times to write a major report on adoption. At about the same time he was invited by Michael Gove to become the so-called Adoption Czar for England.
He now now advises The Ministry of Justice about penal issues and the Department for Education about children’s social care issues. After being commissioned by Number 10 and DfE, he has recently completed a major review of the quality of care for the 9,000 children living in residential homes in England and has just embarked on a similar review of Fostering.
He is Chair of the Trustees of The Brain Tumour Charity, Chair of the Portman Group, and a non-executive board member at The Sage, Gateshead. He speaks regularly to large organisations about the struggle of leadership, particularly leadership during adversity. Recent clients have included Barclays, UK Sport, Vodafone, Lloyds, Royal Sun Alliance, The National Audit Office, the Conference of Anglican Bishops, the BBC and Manchester United.
He has written regularly for The Times and other newspapers and is a visiting Professor at the Universities of Durham, Sheffield Hallam and Manchester Metropolitan.
He has been married for 39 years to Jan and they have two adult children and two grandsons. He and Jan fortunate enough to live in the beautiful seaside town of Whitby in North Yorkshire.