Thursday, 28 January 2010

Poverty and Inequality

The photograph and story in the Journal last Monday is great publicity for the campaign. Since then there has been a lot of focus on child poverty and inequality. This is a letter I wrote to the Journal about it:

'The measure of childhood poverty is relative – family income less than 50% of median income after the cost of housing. So as the incomes of the richest increase, the gap between best and worst off widens and more fall into poverty.

In the UK the gap between incomes grew faster than any other developed country during the Thatcher years. From 1997 the Labour government tried to reverse the trend with some success in the first five years of this century, but unfortunately that ground has since been lost.

The UK is now the most unequal country in Europe except Portugal, and one of the most unequal in the world. Convincing worldwide evidence shows that all kinds of social problems – violent crime, teenage pregnancy, drug misuse, depression, the number of people in prison and even obesity are closely linked to inequality. In country after country the greater the gap between rich and poor the worse the social problems.

Children North East knows of many families who are struggling to make ends meet. Too many children live in houses their parents can’t afford to heat; children who don’t have a winter coat and children who don’t get three meals a day because their parents can’t afford it.

We also know there are a great many individuals and businesses who care particularly during this recession. The generosity of North East people is well-known for example this Christmas Children North East received over 6000 gifts which we distributed to children, the biggest number we have ever received. We are extremely grateful on behalf of all those children and their parents.

Which ever party forms the next government the crucial issue which must be faced is to reduce inequality of income. That can be done two ways – tax the earnings of the wealthy or increase the income of the poorest. It is up to us as voters to decide which is the most just.'

Monday, 25 January 2010

Building Futures - Changing Young Lives

That's the notice on the hoarding outside WEYES today. And also today The Journal has published a photo of Tim Healy and Denise Welch getting to work helping to transform the building, written by Alastair Gilmour who is using his journalistic skills to help publicise Children North East. Thanks also once again to _space for project managing the construction project on behalf of Children North East.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Building and swimming

Monday 18th January was a Big Day, the day when buidling work started on the WEYES building. _space architecture and management have taken over the building, set up a site office and started taking out old fittings and demolishing internal walls. WEYES is now a designated buidling site which means no one - not even Children North East people can go there without permission (and a hard hat and boots!) from _space. It is hard to believe that work has started at last after all the time it took to obtain planning permission. We have monthly site meetings planned so that we can see how the work is progressing. And the target is to finish everything within 26 weeks - that's 16th July 2010.

It's about time I did something to actually raise money for the WEYES campaign instead of just writing about it. So I have signed up for the annual national Swimathon ( the world's biggest fund raising swim. It's 5 kilometres (just over 3 miles) which is 200 lengths of a 25 metre pool. Swimming suits me better than running and although I have completed the Swimathon before that was a good few years ago now and I am well out of practice. So I need your encouragement, please support me to raise £1000 for WEYES, it's easy to do just click on the 'Just Giving' button on the right of this page. And Thank You!

Monday, 18 January 2010

Loose Women

Being a children's charity most of the Children North East workforce are women and at any one time some of them may be on maternity leave. This afternoon there were phone calls from several of them to tell us that Denise Welch had been talking about the work Children North East does with young people on today's broadcast of 'Loose Women' on ITV.

So thank you Denise for some more free publicity, it seems your programme is very popular with Mums at home!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Fund raising

Last Monday Catrina, our fund-raising manager was invited to give a presentation to the local committee of a national charitable trust. She asked for a large grant to pay for one of the new rooms in the WEYES building. It was not a straighforward interview because the committee members asked lots of questions about the day to day running expenses of the WEYES project which Catrina had not prepared for. Nevertheless yesterday the committee phoned to say they would like to recommend Catrina's request for consideration by the national committee of the trust and asked her to complete a form giving additional information. This is promising news because our target is to raise £200,000 for the WEYES project from big donations from big charitable trusts like this.

We also want to raise a further £100,000 in small amounts from local giving. To date we have got £46,000, nearly half of that amount. This is generous donations from North East businesses, individuals and fund raising events last year.

Also this week John, our Head of Finance and I have been putting the finishing touches to an application to the Department of Health for a grant which, if successful would pay for most of what we need to raise. This is money that charities and social enterprises can apply for to activities that support community wellbeing. We have no idea whether this application will be looked on favourably or not but finger's crossed!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

2010 will be a great year

2010 is going to be a great year for WEYES and Children North East.
Just before Christmas we had a 'Pre-Start' meeting with the guys at _space architecture and management. Fred Cosgrove of Hall and Partners, Project Managers and Construction Consultants has very kindly offered to look after Children North East's interests in our relationship with _space and he was also at the meeting. The big news is that _space take over the site on Monday 11th January to erect hoardings etc. Building work proper will start the following Monday, 18th January and is expected to take 26 weeks so the project should be completed by 16th July 2010.

The WEYES building retains some original features especially just inside the front door. There are some beautiful tiles on the wall illustrating scenes from literature (e.g. Morte d'Arthur) and stained glass panels around the inner door depicting signs of the zodiac. All these will be retained and cleaned. I noticed the stained glass was dated 1877 - presumably when it was built. This picture of Newcastle was taken in 1877, the year after the Swing Bridge (in the picture) opened.
1877 was the year in which Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, Alexander Graham Bell installed the first commercial telephones, the first Test Match between England and Australia was played and Tchaikovsky's ballet Swan Lake had it's debut performance.

We have a grand old lady in the WEYES building to be proud of. She needs bringing up to date but she also deserves to be looked after.