Charities don't last as long as Children North East (founded 1891) without adapting to the changing needs of children. Last September we started a thorough review of everything we do by asking our staff what they thought we should be doing. Since then we've examined our strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and threats that face us. We have also considered the external environment, done some future gazing and discussed our finances. We have summarised all the discussion in our Strategic Plan for 2015-2019 which has been agreed by our board of trustees and shared with all our staff this week.
Back in 1891 our mission was 'To hold out a helping hand to poor children in Newcastle and Gateshead', as one of the early trustees put it: to give poor children 'a hand up not a hand out'. The aims of the charity have changed many times since then and we have redefined them again in today's language. Our mission now is for all north east children and young people to grow up healthy and happy and we will promote the rights of children and young people.
Children North East has always been a service organisation and will continue to strengthen and empower children, young people in families, in schools and in the community; but we will also improve what other workers and organisations do through training, demonstrating good practice and influencing their policies and practice. We will work in partnership with other organisations who share our aims and values in order to reach as many north east children and young people as possible.
Listening to children and young people and hearing the things that concern them will be at the heart of everything we do and we will find ways to hear as many of them as possible, not only the ones we currently work with. To make sure that children's rights really do drive everything we do, we will adopt the 7 principles of the Unicef Child Rights Partners approach in all our work.
There are some 'wicked issues' facing children and young people in the north east today, for example child poverty, the silent epidemic of mental ill-health, child sexual exploitation, progression from school into work to name just a few. At the same time public services are retreating from serving some needs, for example the emphasis on 'early intervention' (which actually means helping families in the years before children start school) means there is much less help for families of school age children unless they are being abused - just ask any teacher.
I believe this is the time for organisations like Children North East that are independent of public services to step up to the mark and take the lead in serving the needs of todays children and young people.