Friday, 27 January 2012


Well it’s been a busy but really rewarding week. The Surrey14-19 Partnership on Monday revealed the difficulties that FE Colleges are experiencing now in building up young people who leave school without English and Maths GCSE (Wolf report requirement)  and yet Surrey schools do really well (62.9% having 5 GCSE passes including  Maths/English) …but 4,000 do not. We touched on education and links to corporates with Anne Milton MP who came to see us last Friday. She is very impressive, knowledgeable and supportive of the voluntary sector.

We had a brief training session with a social media consultant (Nicky Kriel - recommended) on Tuesday morning that gave us practical ideas for marketing Surrey Youth Focus better in future. This was followed by our Trustees meeting in the evening which approved our budget for 2012/13, aided by some unexpected but very welcome additional income. We have several new Trustees and this is a very strong and effective Board. Investment of time in good governance is really worthwhile.  The main theme for the meeting was about "Positive for Youth" the Government’s policy paper on young people, which is on our website, as is my powerpoint summarising it. My only real criticism of it is that it’s weak on workforce development.

I stood down as a Board member of RAISE at its AGM on Wednesday..and it was good to catch up there with Jean Roberts–Jones former CX of Surrey Community Action who is  enjoying her new job at Eastleigh.

I went to Guildford FE College on Thursday. The college has a budget of £40 mill and does great work with its students- they are becoming Partner members of ours and we were exploring complementary activities. I’m looking forward to receiving the College students’ DVD of the “Young people and society” debate in Guildford, which they filmed, and is now ready. I am sure there is much that can be done to benefit the College and Surrey Youth Focus members. Also heard on Thursday that we are to be receiving £500 from County Councillor Frost towards the cost of Surrey Youth News, which is much appreciated.

Then last night I went to a performance by the amazing and very gifted young actors of Peer Productions (Knaphill, Woking ) who put on a brilliant performance of their Alcohol Project. This is a 90 minute long musical drama that has a narrative about the experiences of young people who end up in A&E after a drunken Friday night. Importantly the drama is founded on real facts and researched experiences about the impact of alcohol on young people. It is a powerful bitter/sweet drama. It can be delivered to schools, colleges at a cost of £600 (plus travel costs). Highly recommended.

I found it difficult to know how to respond as an audience member, knowing that every bit of hilarity would be followed by some personal tragedy…..and almost too real…for the youth development worker in my team also works part – time for a Borough Council, running a youth centre where recently she had to deal with two drunken (as in "totally wasted") and violent 14/15 year old girls at 6.00pm. Very challenging.  Drama and reality become as one.

And finally, I am off this afternoon to visit a mother and toddler group formed by teenage parents with support from a County Council youth worker, who now want to become a voluntary organisation to help other teenage mums. Isn’t that great?!! 


Friday, 20 January 2012


Well my blogging week began with my visit last Friday evening 13 Jan with a visit to PHAB at Lintons Lane in Epsom. This is a Friday night youth club for children and young people aged 10-16, specifically including those with physical and learning difficulties. All run by volunteers and the 85 young people that night queued to get in, and had a great time, as did I. The problem is that Lintons Lane building is being closed by the County Council and sold off for redevelopment, and to be fair this large site is being underutilized as a capital asset. The building (an old girls school is semi–derelict, but it is a great space for the young people, and much loved by them.  PHAB will need new premises which Surrey CC are committed to funding for them, and other users including Disability Challengers.

This led on to a meeting that I chaired on Wednesday with Sanctuary Housing, Epsom BC and Surrey CC about Sanctuary’s brilliant scheme to redevelop an office site they own as a new youth hostel (foyer) for homeless young people, and to run all sorts of youth activities from there – drug and alcohol advice, support to NEETs and so on. Great support for the project, and a good example of Surrey Youth Focus in a brokerage role.

We have set the budget for next year and although it’s in operating deficit, we have stronger reserves already thanks to some additional income this year, so I am hoping that Trustees will be ok with this at the formal meeting next week.

We are meeting with Anne Milton MP who is visiting us this morning on the back of our public debates on “Young People and Society” which we held last year in Guildford (her patch) and Epsom. I’ll report back next week.

Have fun!

Friday, 13 January 2012


Really enjoyable week – met with the senior manager supporting Child And Adolescent mental Health (CAMHS) whose Board I am joining, and great work going on with CAMHS Youth Advisers - peer advisers supporting /signposting young people.

Then I met with businessman with whom we’ve been working for two years to set up a social enterprise in Woking to provide work opportunities for those struggling to get employment or work experience. I think the pathway is now clear to get started. The problem with any start up is how to fund the initial costs, and address the cash flow issues before sales and income occurs, but I think this is now overcome. IF we can get this going it should have great potential as a social enterprise model.

I have also been building links with our members and business, partly through our “4x4” scheme but also by direct approaches to companies that are being facilitated by our trustees with business links, so last week was P&G, and this week Allianz. The Government policy paper "Positive for youth" promotes links between youth organisations and business, and at national level NCVYS, UK Youth, Business in the Community and others have all  combined to promote links at national, regional and local level.  I am trying to get in touch with BitC Surrey and Sussex to discuss this. 

Finally, I met with our uniformed organisations last night, including the new Surrey Scout Commissioner, Roxanna Bostock to hear that Scout and Guide numbers are still rising strongly, and with people on the waiting list….names are apparently put down at birth to join Beavers and Brownies. There are still the problems of getting volunteers, but my briefing flagged up the new Community Improvement Fund (£750,000) the Leader of the County council has launched to fund local community infrastructure projects, and this was very well received indeed. So - a good week!

Best wishes,

Friday, 6 January 2012


Well Happy New Year to you all, and I for one had a good rest, and an enjoyable time.

Clearly 2012 will be a year of challenge with issues about the eurozone and its impact on banking, sovereign debt….growth… unemployment …can’t see private sector growing fast enough to replace public sector cutbacks. But also a year of change as colleagues in Surrey Community Action and the Councils for Voluntary Services consolidate in some way to prepare for being commissioned in 2013/14.

For our part, we will “stick to core business”, remain small, innovative and focused on our member organisations.

In regard to the latter,  we had a useful meeting with Proctor and Gamble this week who are sponsoring our Celebration of Youth again this year (Sat 24 March pm) and may also help us in other ways.

I do think that voluntary sector/ business links are crucial. Interesting therefore to see that just before Christmas the Government announced two things: its new “Positive for Youth” policy, and also the promotion of work by Business in the Community and Youth Charities (including NCVYS) to work more closely together. We are promoting our “4x4” programme, linking 4 member organisations to 4 businesses. Launching with Surrey Chambers at the end of this month… to see Allianz next week.

All the best