Thursday, 24 February 2011

Good news!

Excellent news from the Big Lottery this week! Our application for 3 years funding was successful amounting £460,510 to extend our 'BU' course for young people into more schools in Newcastle and Gateshead. ‘BU’ (Be Yourself) is one of several accredited courses for young people that have been developed with young people by WEYES to improve the self-esteem, confidence and wellbeing of young people. The course leads to a Diploma which for some young people is the only recognised qualification they have and can be the spur they need to enrol on a college course. We were also very pleased to have the publicity in the newspapers and even on the local TV news.

Also wonderful news from Gateshead Council who have decided to continue to grant fund our 'Gateshead Supporting Children' project. This is particularly good news because for most of the past year they been warning us that the grant would end on 31st March. The change of heart seems to have come about because the primary schools really value these 'friendship groups' that the project runs. The groups are for children most at risk of social exclusion and they help improve school attendance and overall educational achievement. Children are referred to the groups by their teachers. Children North East staff visit the children and their parents at home to obtain their agreement and also make an important link between the school and home. The groups run for a whole term in school during the school day for 4 to 6 children at a time.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Our 3 Year Plan

The Board of Trustees met in January and approved a 3 year plan for Children North East. The reason Children North East exists is to do as much good as possible for as many children and young people in need in the North East of England. Last year we reviewed and agreed our current objectives to be:
To promote the rights of children, young people; and counter the effects of inequality on them, their families and communities.
And we do this by:
·         Affirming family relationships;
·         giving children and young people opportunities that raise aspirations; and
·         encouraging community engagement.
During the next 3 years (until April 2014) the Trustees have agreed to concentrate on these 3 things: 

a)  Be known to speak out about child poverty in North East England.
Children North East started 120 years ago as an organisation to assist poor children. Essentially our work is still about child poverty. One third of children in the north east are poor and the proportion is likely to grow in the next 3 years.
Our name is more familiar than it used to be, but the public does not know what we stand for or what we do. As other regional bodies are disbanded, we have the chance to be a truly regional organisation advocating for the rights of poorer children and young people from Berwick upon Tweed to Teesside.
How we will know we are succeeding - Significant regional public activities highlighting child poverty each year during the next 3 years. 

b)  Increase the spread and impact of what we do.
At present, we work in Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and parts of County Durham, yet we are called Children North East. We ought to be present in more of the region.
We do not know exactly how many children and young people use our services each year but estimate it to be about 4,000.
We are reducing overheads but Children North East will continue to need a turnover of at least £2 million a year to remain viable, to develop new services and adapt to all the changes ahead.
How we will know we are succeeding:
1.     Provide services in all the Tyne and Wear Local Authorities and all of County Durham.
2.     Reach 5,000 children and young people a year by 2014 and explain the impact we have.
3.     Annual turnover of £2.5m a year by 2014.

c) Be financially self-sustaining.
Public Sector spending cuts mean relying on grants and contracts from the public sector is no longer sustainable. Some Father’s Plus activities have been funded by selling them; in 2010 we also began to earn income by selling Hidden Harm services as ‘spot purchases’. Paying for our activities by selling them must now become our main financial model.
This will have big implications for the way we budget, monitor and manage our finances; for contracts of employment, which can no longer be linked to grants or contract; and we must invest in marketing our services.
How we will know we are succeeding – by 2013-2014 a minimum of 40% of our total income should be ‘earned’.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Working for nothing

Like any other business we must follow good employment practices. We cannot be certain that funding for some our projects will continue past 31st March so in January we issued 'at risk of redundancy' notices to 36 of our 80 staff. Senior Managers and HR are now engaged in individual consultation meetings with each of those people. The purpose of the meetings is to explain the situation, why they could lose thier job, what is being done to prevent that and ask them if they have any suggestions to make about it.

You learn a lot about people during these meetings for example how important their work is to them, not just financially, though of course that it always important, but how much they care about what they do and the children, young people and families they work with. Many staff would rather radically reduce their hours (and income) rather than give up on the people they help during their work.

One part time worker told us all her income goes on child care. She has 3 children, when she is at work two go to a nursery (part of a local authority run Children's Centre) and the third one goes to an after school club. The whole of her part-time salary just covers the monthly cost of that child care. The only financial benefit to her of working is that it entitles her to Tax Credits. She was worried that the government is planning to change Tax Credits, if that happens there would be no point in her working at all, she would be better off just staying at home. She wants to work at least part-time because her current arrangement works well for her and her children.

So far all the talk in the news has been about cuts in public services but the proposed changes in benefits have not yet even begun to bite, when they do many families are going to be siginifcantly worse off.