Thursday, 27 December 2012

A look back at 2012

2012 has been a strange year; every month brought a mixture of good and bad news. At the same time the cost of living has risen for everyone with many families facing severe financial hardship. Nevertheless through all the uncertainty Children North East staff continued to work with care and compassion for children, young people and parents who are in need.

During the year we started a new service with 3 Rivers Housing for children and their mothers in Durham women's refuge; and set up Newcastle Youth Link in a consortium with Streetwise and Barnardos. In Gateshead we provided the ‘System Navigator’ service as part of the SEN and disabled children pathfinder pilot.

Our Father's Plus service secured commissions in South Tyneside, Sunderland and County Durham for Family and Community Learning as well as delivering to a Newcastle school cluster and a promising new training development for workers – ‘Men as Protective Factors in Safeguarding’.

In June we celebrated our fabulous volunteers at a glittering event attended by dozens of volunteer young people who received awards from People’s Postcode Lottery ambassador Judy McCourt. Youth Link coordinators organised a residential for volunteers in the autumn.

The Sandcastle Challenge went ahead in July despite floods the previous day. A few schools were not able to get there, but the event went off as brilliantly as ever. Our fundraising events - the Sandcastle Ball, Golf Day and Great North Run were once again very successful. In September our admin staff organised a sponsored walk along the river from Newcastle to Tynemouth which might become an annual event.

Newcastle temporary accommodation moved from Hill Court to brand new Cherry Tree View, named by the children. The service had a fine summer, not only a Jubilee Party but also mini Olympics. The whole organisation gave generously to our mini 'food bank' to make sure the children had breakfasts and lunches through the school summer holiday.

In October we organised elections to Newcastle Youth Council and a residential for the new youth councillors in the autumn half term holiday. The Youth Council is organising a young people’s summit in January to tell Newcastle City Council how the proposed cuts will hurt children and young people.

Ripples from the child poverty conference at the end of 2011 reverberated through the year. Sharon Hodgson MP for Washington kept her promise to organise a Parliamentary reception for the young people who devised and performed 'Hope's Diary' at the conference. Their performance was seen by Ed Balls, Lord Laming and 50 other MPs and Peers in the Houses of Parliament. Children North East got great coverage on Tyne Tees TV news of the trip and the young people had an experience they will never forget.

We have obtained small grants to develop and pilot ‘poverty proofing’ self assessment for schools; training about child poverty for teachers and recently for community development in Newcastle based on the photographs the young people took.

Looking ahead very recently Newcastle have given us a 2 year grant to increase adult volunteer opportunities to build on accreditation of the volunteer training programme this year; and local GPs will be running a surgery for young people at WEYES as a pilot.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Giving Tree

Gifts piled in our meeting room

For the last couple of weeks donations of new toys and clothes, food and cosmetics have been flooding into Children North East from all over the region. As soon as they arrive in our meeting room (above) they are sorted ready for distribution to families in need. Not just families that Children North East know, but we also distribute them via other voluntary organisations, Children's Centres, health visitors and social workers so that families who are struggling to make ends meet are able to provide their children with a proper Christmas.

We have been overwhelmed by people's generosity this year, well over 7,000 gifts (and still rising) have been given, worth many thousands of pounds. It is amazing that even though times are hard for everyone, the warm-hearted people of the north east can still think of others worse off than themselves. Perhaps it is because the recession, rises in cost of living, fewer public services and changes to welfare benefits have been so far reaching that everyone knows someone who has lost their job, is working short hours, has not had a pay increase in years, is under the threat of redundancy or who has lost tax credits, Disability Living Allowance or Sickness Benefit.

When it is people that you know - friends, neighbours, relatives, colleagues - who are finding it particulaly hard this Christmas, you want to help if you can, it's human nature. It gives the lie to what we are constantly told, that the poor have only themselves to blame. The close knit communities of the north east who have seen so much hardship over the years, know that is simply not true. And noone wants to see bairns go without especially at this time of year.

So Thank You so much. And as you enjoy the season, please spare a thought too for the Children North East staff who will be working over the Christmas period to support families in dire need struggling to get by.