We hosted a two day visit this week from a member of staff from the Big Lottery. He was on a 'fact finding' mission to find out what life is like in a voluntary sector organisation, I gather some of his colleagues were on similar visits in other organisations. He visited some of our projects - the ones that are easiest to 'see' because they are in buildings - WEYES, the creche and after school club in the homeless families accommodation; and also one of our Youth Link projects. Then he had discussions with senior members of staff.
I spent the end of his second day with him. I was delighted to be told how impressed he was with the quality of work he had seen, the care taken by Children North East staff in their work and their commitment to the children and young people they work with. I welcomed the Big Lottery wanting to find out more about what actually happens 'on the ground'. For some time I have felt the Big Lottery's idea of grant making has been too 'traditional'. They seem to assume that grants pay for a particular project based in a particular building, a model which just does not work for an application by a consortium of organisations. In the latter it seems to me although one organisation administers the grant, the others get paid for the work they do (a spot purchasing model) I think that encourages and supports the direction in which we all have to go, but Big Lottery seem reluctant to support it.
We got to talking about ideas we have for projects. Last year Gateshead shared some research with us which showed that children we struggled in school almost always shared 4 features - poor literacy, poor numeracy, poverty (free school meals) and born late in the school year. We would like to train secondary school students to be reading buddies to primary school children. This would improve the primary school children's reading; give the secondary school students new skills that could make them more employable; and would smooth the transition to secondary school. We could do it in Gateshead by building on the relationships we have with schools through our frindships groups and by adapting our Youth Link scheme that trains and support young people as volunteers to mentor other young people. I am pleased to say he thought this was a brilliant, simple idea and encouraged us to apply for a grant.