Friday, 28 October 2011


Last Friday’s "Young people and society" debate in Guildford went pretty well, with some 65 people attending and a high quality debate, informed by the contribution of the panel including the president of Guildford (FE) College student union who was insistent on the need to re-define a values based approach tp young people – a “moral consensus” that she felt had gone missing currently. The second public meeting is on Friday 25 November at the NESCOT (FE college) in Epsom.

This week saw the announcement of a new Surrey Scouts Commissioner, Roxanna Bostock from Spelthorne in succession to Richard Shortman, and we wish Roxanna well in her new role.

The Surrey Transforming Local Infrastructure bid was submitted yesterday. There are four key features: encouraging mergers/ collaboration of district/borough CVS, setting up a social enterprise to deal with CSR across the county, developing common performance measures, and, importantly commissioning the development of a tool kit for frontline organizations to measure impact. Surrey Youth Focus is not benefiting from any of the funding.

BUT I have had very positive meetings this week with Big Lottery SE, and with the Community Foundation, Surrey , and am hopeful that these will lead to a successful Lottery bid around innovation and replication. The Community Foundation are beginning to do research, as am I and the PCT about youth homelessness.

This links to a trip to Milton Keynes yesterday for a Social Enterprise South East invitation only event at which Nick Hurd (Minister for Civil Society) and Nick O’Donoghue (CEO Big Society Capital)  were the key speakers. There was a constant theme about social enterprise, social finance and social impact bonds, and the need for the sector to be able to quantify impact and savings. There were many examples of all of these, including Big Society Capital funding a financial intermediary (£2mill) so that it in turn could fund a social enterprise (Tomorrow’s People) working with 600 NEET young people at risk of being offenders in east London. 

It was very clear to me that whilst these new financial and organizational models will NOT suit all voluntary sector organizations, there is and will be a big push in this direction.

Weekend writing MA Theology dissertation which I am sure you will all want to know about later….much later!

Best wishes,

Thursday, 20 October 2011


Lots of meetings this week – an informal meeting of Chairs of voluntary organisations on Monday evening, and then Tuesday evening was our own Trustees meeting.

The Transforming Local Infrastructure bid has progressed well - thanks to Peter Arnold of Surrey Community Action (SCA), and I had a brief slot about it at the SCA AGM on Tuesday morning about the TLI. The challenge is for support service organizations (cross-county, borough specific and specialist, like Surrey Youth Focus) to work out how to deliver an effective service whilst reducing back office costs. There are some innovative proposals including collaboration and mergers (not us).

On Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning I was co–interviewing for posts at RAISE (Regional Action and Involvement South–East ), which is repositioning itself to operate more like a consultancy and brokerage service.

However, my main focus has been on preparations for Friday lunch-time's open public debate in Guildford about “Young  People and Society”, for which we have commissioned the Community Film Unit, a social enterprise comprising former Surrey CC Future Jobs Fund trainees, to make a short film about the life experiences of some young people who had become marginalized.

The film is very powerful in conveying the depth of difficulty that some young people experience…including the young man who was kicked out of his family when aged 14.  I link this to an article in Children and Young people Now about a young woman who was also homeless aged 14 and after years on streets, sofa surfing and in temporary accommodation has at last found a bed at Woking YMCA's new hostel for homeless young people. Youth homelessness in Surrey is a gap in the Surrey Joint Strategic Needs Analysis (JSNA) with health, and I am now just beginning to work on our Research Report that will cover this and doing so with the PCT.

It is stunning what incredibly tough lives some young people have, and who are, I fear growing in number.

Report on the debate next week.


Friday, 14 October 2011


Another fairly tense week with an underlying theme of  the Transforming Local Infrastructure bid in progress, and discussions with the County Council starting about grant cutting for 2012/13, and the introduction of commissioning for 2013/14.

More positively we have got the papers out for our Trustees meeting next week, including the Annual Report and Accounts for last year, which we see as a key marketing document.

We have also been sending out floods of emails about our first “Young people and Society” open public debate in Guildford on Friday 21 October. Great meeting about this at Guildford College yesterday with the Interim Principal and the Student Union President who will be on the Panel for Friday. Hopefully the College will be able to film the event which would be brilliant. Talking of “society” …..interesting to hear this week from Sue Berelowitz, a former Surrey CC colleague and now Deputy Children’s Commissioner that "Right now thousands of children are being horrifically abused by gangs” . And then also this week the Care Quality Commission’s review of care for the elderly in 100 hospitals found “concerns” in 55/100, and downright illegal treatment in 20. What does that tell us about our society?

I was invited by the Chairman of the County Council to lunch at County Hall to hear a speech by Matthew Bowcock, chairman of the Community Foundation Network nationally. His theme is, like mine, that charities need to break out of the dependence on government grants and contracts and become more self funding. By contrast the closing date for the Surrey CC services for young people was 12 October, including the submission of individual contracts for the 31 youth centres…which transfers huge costs of time and effort to the bidders. Off now to a South East Youth Partnership (SEYP of which I am Chair) workshop on Commissioning with the Oftsted Inspector, Tony Gallagher, who wrote “An evaluation of approaches to commissioning young people’s services” . His report and my update on commissioning are on our website.

Good weather this weekend… We’re all Welsh now...grand-daughter now doing ok. Neglected Theology dissertation calls though!


Friday, 7 October 2011


A tense week with lots of work towards the Transforming Local Infrastructure bid which is going well and setting out proposals which, if accepted by all partners,  would be genuinely transformative, recognizing the difficulties of overcoming our local prejudices in a two tier county. Politics, which is what this is the art of the possible and practicable, so the results may not be an Ideal, but will be transformative and progressive.

This morning has seen a parallel process with Surrey CC discussing with its beneficiaries how best to reduce its grants to the sector by up to 30%, and how to prepare on both sides, commissioner and contractor, for commissioning from 2013/14 onwards. All this being relevant to Surrey Youth Focus as an infrastructure organisation.

An underlying issue for the sector is to see beyond the binary relationship of central/local government as commissioner, and voluntary sector as contractor, to a wider triangulation that recognizes the contribution of corporates / social finance/ social philanthropy. I am being invited up to a Ministerial event later this month with a few others to discuss exactly this - more afterwards.

I have also been busy promoting our public debate in Guildford on 21 October at 1.00pm (see website) about Young people and society.

Part of my tension this week has been that I have become a grandfather for the third time, but the baby was early and weighs just 3lbs 3oz. She stopped breathing twice on Wednesday. It is amazing what the NHS can do in critical care. The baby seems ok now. More rugby ( England v. France tomorrow)  and 10 friends to dinner – I am cooking as my wife has been pretty busy this week with other grandchildren. So I am hoping a difficult week will end with a jolly time…off to buy the wine!