Jan Stanton Banner
Jan Stanton Banner

An interview with Jan Stanton, ellenor Trustee

Heading her own firm of solicitors has given Jan Stanton excellent credentials for a trustee role at her local hospice charity.

The health and wellbeing of her staff has always been a top priority for the family law specialist, and her concern for others is reflected in her role at ellenor. She is as concerned with the happiness of the charity’s employees as she is for the patients and families they help.

She said: “A happy firm is a productive firm, and the same goes for a care organisation. Every member of staff at ellenor has an equal level of importance. For instance, if a member of the housekeeping team isn’t there for some reason, everything can go wrong. Valuing staff and staff seeing that they are valued makes such a difference to morale.

“I think I get as much out of my involvement with ellenor personally as I give back, so it’s a wonderful opportunity for me.”

Jan, who became a trustee at ellenor five years ago, has witnessed at first-hand how the charity has risen to the challenges of the Covid pandemic.

She said: “It has certainly been difficult over the past few years, but I admire the way the management team has handled it -- everyone at ellenor is recognised and that is important as when people become disenfranchised it can cause a ripple effect. I have been impressed by the way ellenor and its HR team have risen to the challenges.

“When clients come into me at my office in Gravesend, I never actively encourage them to think of ellenor when they are writing their wills for example, but many of them do. That tells me what high regard ellenor is held in.”

Jan, who qualified as a solicitor in 1977 and runs Stanton's in Gravesend, chairs ellenor’s Governance and Risk Committee. 

She said: “It is about taking ultimate responsibility for ensuring the charity is complying with all its governance requirements. A trustee is often described as a critical friend.”

Jan joined ellenor in 2016 as she could see it had a very good reputation and was a forward-thinking charity, and she is delighted that continues to be the case.

She said: “There is a constant evolution of new ideas and procedures and that’s exciting. What I like is an organisation where everybody is up for trying a new idea. Even if it has been tried before, they will try it a different way.

“I also think it’s always important to ask how changes will affect different cohorts of staff. We need to ask ourselves, are we listening to them?”

It is not surprising that Jan has empathy with people of all ages from all walks of life. She sat as a Deputy District Judge in the Central Family Court for over 12 years until she retired last year.

Book Club @ ellenor

Jan also recently started a book club at ellenor, for patients, their families and staff members.  The club is also open to members of the local community – in keeping with ellenor’s efforts to end outdated myths about hospice care and welcome everyone with open arms.

“I’ve started to become a bit more hands on since coming into the hospice to give out free legal advice,” said Jan. “Every week I have been talking to new people and learning more about their roles and having some input.

“I belong to my own book club, originally a group of neighbours, people of all backgrounds with different attitudes, and it struck me that the same thing could work at ellenor. It can be a very joyful experience If you choose the right sort of books. First of all, it makes you read a book you might never otherwise have read. Then you hope it will inspire people to talk about ideas that come from the book. It can be so rewarding.

“We don’t pick anything too highbrow, and we do stick to fiction, but of different genres.”

Jan’s firm donates the books to club members – and they are able to keep them after they have read them. So far, they have enjoyed The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce and Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris.

Jan said: “It’s very comfortable in a book club environment to ask what people thought about the book and whether they saw something coming. It gets people talking, not necessarily about intimate things but about their personal lives and their attitudes, about families and friendships. We don’t necessarily talk about bereavement, but maybe about the impact of losses we have suffered in our lives.

“We chat and laugh, and our get-togethers are full of vibrancy. The book is a framework so that people are comfortable to turn it a bit to their personal lives – it’s entirely up to them."

"It can trigger thoughts for people when they read something. And if a book turns out to be not for you – you can just come along to the club and tell people why you didn’t like it!”

In the past 10 years she has also become very experienced in wills and probate. In fact, she and a colleague run an advice session at the hospice on Thursday mornings, which is open to patients, their families and members of the local community.

Jan said: “What most people want is reassuring and pragmatic advice and for us to tell them not to worry. Dealing in family law, we are used to coping with emotions in a professional way. We are empathetic but always strive to make sure people are getting the right legal message.”

Book Club @ ellenor

The Book Club @ ellenor is held on the first Wednesday of each month at 2pm on The Green at the hospice in Northfleet.


Drop-In Advice Sessions

Stantons Solicitors’ free legal advice session is held there every Thursday from 11am - 12pm.