Friday, 19 April 2013

CIPD North East of England HR & D Awards

Last night saw the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development North East of England Branch Human Resources and Development Award dinner at the Gateshead Hilton hotel. It was a glittering occasion to celebrate the CIPD 100th anniversary. There were over 300 guests from 36 prominent North East businesses such as Northumbrian Water, Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Arriva North East and newcomer to the region, Virgin Money. Like CIPD many of the organisations present were celebrating anniversaries but the oldest by far was Children North East.

The purpose of the evening was to make awards in 8 categories, we were told that the standard of entries was better than ever before and there were a higher number than ever too. Children North East were delighted to be a finalist alongside Houghon International and NAREC, the National Renewable Energy Centre for the 'SME Excellence in HR & D' Award.

Children North East is a people organisation, our staff, volunteers and trustees are our biggest resource and everything we do is rooted in the power of human relationships to transform people's lives. So excellent HR is an absolute priority for us to ensure that we value and support the people who work for Children North East. If we don't respect them how can we expect them to respect and value the children, young people and parents we ask them to support in the name of Children North East.

In the event, Houghton International won in the 'SME Excellence in HR & D' category but we did extremely well to be selected. Children North East was one of only two third sector organisations nominated for any of the awards. So very well done Leigh and the HR team - your hard work has been recognised and you can feel justifiably proud of the quality of what you do for Children North East.

Friday, 12 April 2013

Digital stories

Have you ever seen yourself on a cinema screen? Imagine what a thrill it would be to see yourself so large; so different to a usual size photograph even on a computer or TV. That's what happened for 9 young people, their families and friends on Thursday this week at the Tyneside Cinema

Make your MarkIt was the culmination, in fact the World Premier of a joint project between Children North East and digital story maker Alex Henry who is also known as Creative Curiosity funded by a grant from Newcastle City Council's 'Make Your Mark' programme for Scotswood and Benwell.

Alex helps people make and record their own story using computer technology. She worked with local children, young people and parents from Benwell and Scotswood and Sara Bryson from Children North East at our Head Office in Benwell.

They started by sharing their likes, dislikes, hopes, what they love and dislike, gradually getting to know each other. Next each decided the story they wanted to tell and with help from Alex and support from each other planned how to tell it, write it down, select or make pictures to illustrate it and finally put it all together using a computer. The result was 9 short original picture shows that are funny, quirky, poignant stories about real life in Benwell and Scotswood today.

You can see these stories too online. Samir takes us on a tour of Benwell today and reflects on the past in 'That's Benwell' and Darren describes the 'degeneration' of Scotswood in 'My Story'. Cain, Naomi and Darren tell us about their family, each in their own way in 'My Family' 'Home Sweet Home' and 'My Family Circus'.

'Tilly and Mitsy's Express' is Molly's story of her dog while Ubayed reveals a little known corner of school life in 'Are You Selling'.

The last two stories are about the future, Ryan tells about his ambition to set up a greengrocers and cafe using locally grown fruit and veg in 'Freshly Cuttings' and Shuayb explains why he is looking forward to the Islamic School opening at 'The Mitre (Benwell Towers)' and hopes the whole community will welcome it.

Everyone thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this project which gave them a unique opportunity. They were so pleased, proud (and a bit shocked) to see their work on the big screen in a proper cinema with their families and friends. Some of the children are inspired to do more, their experience of this project has made them feel that is achievable.

The stories will be offered to Tyne and Wear Museums to be included in the archive of Benwell and Scotswood.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Lifestyle choices, welfare reforms and child poverty

Politicians sometimes get lucky breaks, David Cameron, George Osbourne et al must have been delighted with the outcome of the Mick and Mairead Philpott trial at the exact moment when the Coalition's Welfare Reforms begin to bite. They have capitalised on the story by repeatedly telling us that 'for some' living off benefits is a 'lifestyle choice'. There have been repeats of Anne Widdecombe's visits to the Philpott's home when she commented on the consumer goods they owned; and repeats too of Mick Philpott appearing on the Jeremy Kyle show. The Philpotts have been depicted as the epitome of real life 'Shameless' skivers. Politicians get away with this because, as they say themselves, the public believes a great many people do chose to live off benefits; they believe that benefits are generous and that people can live comfortably and never have to work.

There are no official records but it is thought there are fewer than 12 families of 10 or more children living off benefits in the whole of the UK. Only 2% of all single mothers are teenagers and 59% of all single mothers work at least part-time. The total cost of welfare benefits and state pensions is about £205 billion but at least 60% of it (depending on how you calculate it) is spent on retired people. There have been calls for Ian Duncan-Smith to demonstrate he could live on £53 a week, the real level of out-of-work benefits for a single person; inflation is 2.7%, people with low incomes spend proportionally more on food, heating and transport which are all rising faster than that, so the 1% cap is in fact really a cut. Less than 1% (about £2 billion) of the total welfare budget is lost to fraud, by contrast tax avoidance and evasion is estimated to be about £120 billion.

Politicians have carefully avoided talking about poverty this week, the discussion has been about welfare reform and fairness instead. I wonder if this is a tacit recognition that the public now realise that lots of people are in work but are still poor - over 66% of poor children live in working families. The public is well aware that most 'hard-working families' have not had pay increases for several years; and that food, heating and transport are all much more expensive. If politicians have realised this then perhaps the way is clear for a proper public debate about poverty, jobs and wages unhindered by myths about benefits claimant lifestyles.

Children North East will help to bring children and young people's experiences and views to such a debate. We have recently received a small grant from the Webb Memorial Trust to develop Hopebook – a social media platform about child poverty for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty. The MPs see Hopebook as a vehicle for getting voices of the most dispossessed children in society into the committee’s debates and for involving children and young people across the country in discussing poverty. We will be working on this closely with young people, Newcastle Live Theatre and the digital team who developed Hopebook which won the Culture Code hack in Newcastle last summer. Take a look at this preview of Hopebook: