Friday, 29 October 2010


This has been a quiet half term week on the roads and with emails, so I have had a bit of time for thought about the CSR which I have now downloaded (100 pages).

The loss of the School Sports Partnerships will leave a gap, but not as great as the loss of the Education Maintenance Allowances for 16-19s and its replacement with a targeted fund. I am still trying to unpack the impact of the benefits changes for young disabled people, and the requirement that increasing the age threshold for the Shared Room Rate in Housing Benefit from 25 to 35. 

To quote from Shelter: The Government announced that the single room rent restriction will be extended to under 35s in future – it has not yet been announced when this will happen. If you are single, under the age of 35 in future, and rent from a private landlord, you will normally only be entitled to enough housing benefit to cover the average cost of a single room in a shared house in your area.”

I have drafted a short briefing note for the Surrey Sports Partnership about safeguarding. It’s worth Sports Clubs remembering that Community Foundation Surrey has a Sports Fund that’s worth applying to.

On funding generally, the Big Lottery has just announced a new buildings programme, and I gather Awards for All (up to £10,000 max) have funding available too.

I have visited White Lodge and Bletchingly youth club this week – each doing great work in their very different ways.

 I have also approached a business organisation to see if they can offer us a volunteer organiser to link between our members and corporates and universities; the need for this was identified in our business plan.

I have drafted a proposal to Surrey CC about how the voice of the sector might still be heard despite the approach now being taken to dispense with Childrens trusts and Strategies, – all part of the dismantling of the “top down” policies and targets, and to narrow membership of the commissioning executive to budget  holders only. We need to ensure that the interests of the sector are heard at the county level.

And finally I recommend reading a report by a London charity, Community Links, about the value of community hubs -  Out of the Ordinary surely the shape of things to come. See our website on Monday.  

Personal Disclosure: On leave on Friday to get some air and have a bit of a walk on the Sussex Downs – my standard 20 miler.

Trivial Pursuit:
a)      Last week: median male earnings are £25,000; it seems that Rooney is being paid £200,000 a week – so he earns in a week what it takes 8 “working people” to earn in a year! No comment!
b)      This week: Clocks go back this week- end; why is Greenwich Mean Time so named?”


Friday, 22 October 2010

Paradigm Shift

Clearly the week has been dominated by the results of the CSR on 20 Oct. and the news of a 28% cut in local government expenditure. This together with all the other elements - students fees, change in homeless benefits for young people, will impact severely on young people.  But there are opportunities.

There are two interesting Cabinet Office reports just published : one is about the role of the sector in building the Big Society - “Building a Stronger Civil Society” -and the other is the place of infrastructure organizations “Supporting a Stronger Civil Society” ( both on our website). The latter encourages mergers and collaboration between infrastructure organizations. There is £470 m to support the sector, of which £100m is for modernization. Interesting key speaker at the RAISE AGM from the Office of the Civil Society – she spoke of the “paradigm shift “ in central government thinking towards localism and community. There is no doubt that the Coalition Government are serious about devolution to the sector and communities.

My question is whether local government will be a conduit to the success of the Big Society, or a block to it. I note that Suffolk and now Kent County Council have decided strategically to outsource/devolve all services, so that they become just an enabling /commissioning body. Interesting. 

Trustees meeting on Thursday approved our much more informative Annual Report and Accounts, and, very importantly, that we should recommend our AGM on 9 Nov that we become a company as well as a charity, to limit the personal risk to trustees/directors. 

I visited the Park Barn (Guildford) Youth Club on Monday where Hannah Tugwell is doing great work with 50 young people attending every session, but she needs more help, which is what we were discussing. 

I have written a draft paper on Social Impact Bonds which are likely to be a really important step forward in securing funding from corporates as the funding contribution of the public sector shrinks. 

Personal disclosure: A MA Theology working week-end in prospect as I have to give a paper on The Spanish Mystics on Monday evening – anyone know about them?

Trivial pursuit:
a)Last week; The folk rock singer who fell down stairs to her untimely death was Sandy Denny of Fairport Convention
b) This week: How many people’s average individual earnings are equalled by Wayne Rooney’s average weekly earnings in his new contract?”

Have fun!

Friday, 15 October 2010


Hi everyone,

welcome to Blog No.7/10 for 15 October

This week’s GREAT news for Surrey Youth Focus is that, subject to the approval of the Charities Evaluation Service, we have been assessed by an external assessor as being fully compliant with all 12 aspects of the Pqasso quality assurance marquee at Level 1.Pqasso stands for Practical Quality Assurance for Small Organisations and is a UK wide quality assurance system. It has taken us two years to get to this point, and so my thanks to the Trustees for supporting this, but most especially to my fellow team members for sticking with it. I would recommend it as a discipline to any charity, large or small. Thanks Jan!

Big Theme: Surrey CC “Fit for the Future “ project.  We had a useful Keeping in Touch meeting with Garath Symonds (Assistant Director for Young People) who has just returned from paternity leave. We discussed 3 topics: the universal/specialist / targeted continuum and how the sector could contribute at each point; the future use/ management  of youth centres, and localism – the devolution of a base budget to local committees (all this subject to Cabinet approval).

Met with Hallah Shams of Guilford Diocese to project plan the use of a £6,000 Faiths in Action grant to foster inter-faith relations amongst young people. Excellent meeting, and fun too.

Sent out the papers for the Trustee meeting next week, including the Annual Report and Accounts and the arrangements for our incorporating as a company.  

Great to see a former colleague Janet Crowe today returning to Surrey as CEO of Surrey Age Concern!

Personally: Great week-end in London last week-end, and dinner at Magdalen, and was given a very on- trend CD by “Mumford and Sons” a new folk- rock band who are superb – slightly in the mold of REM, out of Kat Stevens/ Fairport Convention. A quiet week- end now- I can’t stand too much gallivanting around!  

Trivial pursuit:
a)       Last week’s answer: grass stops growing at temperatures below 5 C, and so we probably can’t put lawn mowers away until early/mid November.
b)       This week: On the folk -rock theme – which famous (female) singer of undoubtedly the greatest folk- rock group fell down stairs to her untimely death?

Have fun!

Friday, 8 October 2010


Hi everyone,

welcome to Friday blog No 6/10 for 8 October.

This week we have been working on a new Members Survey for 2010. The last was in 2008 and we need to update. To simplify matters we have split it into two parts: first a Satisfaction survey  - about the extent to which our Members know about, use, and are satisfied with the services Surrey Youth Focus provides. We posted this out yesterday but it can also be completed on Survey Monkey. Then we need to know about the collective impact of the voluntary sector, and this will be reflected in an impact survey, about our Members at the end of October.

“Impact “is a key word, and the national body – NCVO have done some brilliant work enabling support service organizations in the voluntary sector to assess their impact. It has a wider application than just infrastructure bodies like us – it’s called the Value of Infrastructure Programme (VIP).  Recommended.

Look out for the latest edition of Surrey Youth News – “Opportunities” summarizing some of the really positive things happening amidst the doom and gloom (which is also real)

Big Theme: Two developments to mention:
First, that the NCVYS “Progress” funded training will be out soon – at the end of the month, and this will provide outstanding capacity raising opportunities for the voluntary sector in Surrey . Watch our website , e- bulletin, and blog.
Secondly, I went to a meeting of the Children and Young people Commissioning Executive on Thursday, chaired by Andy Roberts, and opportunities are being taken under the new Government’s edicts to simplify and streamline the management and delivery of integrated services to children and young people, and which I have supported. But within this more managerialist approach we must ensure that there is still a process for the voice of the sector to be heard. More later.

Personally: A sunny week- end at last! We are off to London to have dinner with our family at a restaurant called Magdalen in Tooley St.  near London Bridge, where middle son is joint chef/patron, so a “serious” dinner in prospect!

Trivial Pursuit:
a)      Last week’s answer: A Granny Smith apple is so named after the Australian lady who propagated it accidentally at the turn of the 19th century.
b)      This week: At what temperature does grass stop growing in the SE?  

Enjoy the week-end!

Friday, 1 October 2010

Lining Up Ducks

Hi everyone,

Welcome to Friday blog No.5/10

We are still very busy internally and had a “Pqasso Team challenge” session on Tuesday to ensure that we have all our ducks in a straight line for the external assessor in two weeks time (we do!)  We have taken out a contract to dispose of old archive files and will have spare capacity within the contract to offer as a service to member organizations. Details out soon.

Met on Tuesday afternoon with Peter Gordon the new Chairman elect of Surrey Community Action who has an impressive CV from Unilever, consultancy, and Business Link. We had an interesting and strategic discussion.

On Wednesday several of us met with Dr Andrew Povey, the Leader of Surrey CC. The outcome is that a small working group will meet in short order to identify key projects underpinning The Big Society in Surrey we should work on together – probably NEET reduction, community buildings, volunteering, changing culture and so on. This initial identification of core projects (which then need to be worked up) will be put to the Surrey Strategic Partnership conference on The Big Society on 22 Nov –Note for your diary.

Big Picture: Continuing importance of The Big Society see, or rather listen to, excellent Radio 4 Analysis programme on the political background to it. Here’s the link to listen: podcast

Personal disclosure: Staying at the Benedictine Worth Abbey last week – end was a profound joy. I’m running a Myers Briggs session for my church council this Saturday,  and taking Evensong on Sunday, so theory and practice come together.

Trivial Pursuit:
a)       Last week: The 400th anniversary is of Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610
b)       This week’s  question: Since the apple harvest is with us why are Granny Smith’s apples so named?  

Enjoy the (wet) week- end!