Friday, 29 June 2012

Commissioning & Contracting

A quieter week by my standards, dominated by some mediation/facilitation work I undertook at the request of Surrey County Council between it and a member organisation over a long standing and difficult issue. The session went well for all parties, and I hope that the matter can now be resolved finally.

The other dominant issue this week has been the County Council’s process for commissioning infrastructure support services about which there is much public and private maneuvering. There was a session yesterday for potential bidders from within Surrey, but not open to external companies like Capita, Serco, which was a bit strange. This might be a Part B tender for the £0.5 mill services that previously were supplied on a grant basis by Surrey Community Action (SCA) and the district/borough CVS and others.  My guess is that SCC will not go to open tender, but invite competitive grant bids from the SVAN network (minus SCA) and from a partnership of county level bodies, including us, and with SCA as the lead body. There will be grief, but this is probably unavoidable if performance is to be raised.

Interesting to see the evaluation of Surrey CC’s  re-organisation of its Services for Young People and its commissioning/contracting process.

I have nearly finalised our own grant bid for Surrey Youth Enterprise, and am now working, quickly, on the MoD Community Grants bid due in by 9 July on behalf of our uniformed organisations.

Unfortunately, my meeting with the Bishop of Southwark’s Public Policy Adviser has been postponed from today – the Diocese being members of ours. One of the issues we were intending to discuss is the place of the church in what is called “the public square”- ie public discourse (press ,tv, social media, books etc) and the extent to which the Big Society is still alive as a concept, or whether it has been exposed as a fig leaf for cuts. Which takes me straight on to the ethics of banking…and beyond the scope of my work for SYF!

I got the prediction of an England v. Italy penalty shoot out right, but the wrong team won. I hope Italy win the final now – Sunday evening.. and Wimbledon!


Friday, 22 June 2012

Chairman gets OBE

Surrey Youth Focus is delighted that our Chairman, David Hypher was awarded the OBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List; it is richly deserved, and we are so pleased for both him and his wife Pam. Congratulations.

 And then a very busy and interesting week on a number of levels.

On Monday, I was at a meeting at the Cathedral refectory with Surrey Community Action and the CVs chaired by the Chairman of the County Council (Lavinia Sealy) and with the Chairman of the Council's Select Committee (Cllr Stve Cosser) also present. The purpose of the meeting was to explore the real  views of the voluntary sector about the Council's intention to commission and contract infrastructure support services. This is a very sensitive and controversial issue...and always has been. Suffice to say that SCA disclosed that they would be bidding for the contract outside Surrey Voluntary Action Network (the CVs) of which they are a member.

Keen fans of this blog will recall that we have a Memorandum of Understanding with SCA about co-operative joint  bidding..and SYF has recently had its strategic awayday....  We have now commented formally back to SCC about the consultation document on commissioning. All very tense.

Moving on.... a second matter we discussed in the strategy day was building links to our sister organisation at West Sussex CVYS, and so on Wednesday evening I was at the WSCVYS AGM to meet with their Chair and discuss taking matters forward, which we will now do in the sense of both Chairs meeting in due course. Having huffed and puffed to get our Annual Report done and into our auditor it was  bit mortifying that WCVYS and my good friend Hanna Moore (CEO) had got their Annual Report done, the Accounts audited, a "pop" version written, AND held their AGM in mid June, just 2.5 months after close of last financial year. Impressive!!

Thursday morning saw my last appearance as Chair of South East Youth Partnership (now a network only, and supported by CHYPS) which had a workshop session with Mark Price and Jane Melvin from Brighton University about workforce development issues, and the market for youth work training. The debates about "what is youth work? and Is it a discrete profession?" continue. The cost of a foundation degree in youth work is now£13,000 (not even a BA).

The afternoon was at NESCOT an FE College and  meeting of a sub-group of Surrey Connects about employability and soft skills for young people. There is a complaint from employers that even if young people have particular skills - in IT for example - they lack the self-presentation/ work ethic/ work experience skills, and this is something now being addressed. My participation was in pursuance of our grant bid around Surrey Youth Enterprise.

Then that same evening, I was at the Annual Hart Browne Economics Lecture at Surrey University. For those of us who are Radio 4 Today programme fans the star speaker was Justin Urquart-Stewart, who is a frequent commentator on the programme on financial matters. He was extremely amusing with a  stand up comedian's (or former barrister's) line in banter and some solid comments. His theme was about building confidence, and promoting business. He pointed to the lack of historical awareness of Government Ministers and top civil servants. One telling fact was that the USA has 45 mill people on food stamps. The problem of economic inequality in the land of the free.

Finally, this (Friday) morning I have been back in Horsham with my colleagues from WSCVYS, ESCVYS and NCVYS with our usual slightly chaotic, but valuable exchange of experiences and discussion of issues.

England v.  Italy on Sunday evening:  - penalty shoot out maybe?
Have fun!


Friday, 15 June 2012

40 years on

 Well it has felt like a catch up week after the Jubilee weekend. We were sent brilliant pictures of Woking Sea Rangers at the Thames Pageant on the Albert Bridge and with the Sea Ranger cadets with Prince Harry - a great coup for them. The pictures are on our website.

More mundanely, I have written our Annual Report (and Accounts) for 2011/12 , so that we have the Report to hand rather earlier than in previous years to support grant bids. We will be producing a short popular version of it in colour as a marketing tool. Talking of marketing, we are delighted to announce that, subject to the approval of Trusteees on 31 July, Carol Brannigan will be joining the Board as an independent trustee, having just completed an appointment as interim Director of Marketing for KPMG Europe. Carol has a massively impressive CV and is about to cycle the Camino de santiago in Spain on a tandem with her husband. Walking the Camino is one of my main ambitions, so we have that in common. Carol will be a great asset to us, as she wants to be a "hands on" trustee. Great!

We are also pleased to say that Shelagh West has joined us a volunteer Volunteer Broker; Shelagh used to run her own IT company and then volunteered with the CAB for many years, so she is an ideal person to link between our member organisations and corporates / employers who may be looking for volunteering projects for their staff.

I had a useful mentoring session with my business mentor on Thursday morning, and this was followed by a joint meeting of the Surrey 14-19 Partnership Board with the Youth Justice Board. There were several interesting items - an Employability Plan (except that it didn't have any detail about what when, how) to encourage young people, especially NEETS into training and employment. I am convinced that our Surrey Youth Enterprise grant bid (still in progress) will hit the mark. Another intersting item was the product of focus discussions with  some 100 young people about their hopes and fears, and there were some very telling remarks. For some there is a sense that if they miss out at school, they are doomed...we must not let this impression take hold. We'll put the powepoint up on the website as soon as it's to hand.

Well we have a 40th wedding anniversary lunch party in the garden on Saturday (we have a marquee up) so we hope it doesn't rain...and that England beat Sweden tonight(Friday). We have 40 family and friends coming....and lots  of fizz! Have fun because I will!


Friday, 8 June 2012

If you can't beat them - join them

Well I enjoyed watching the Jubilee from the warmth and comfort of my sitting room in the main..  Unlike Woking Sea Rangers who were on the Albert Bridge for the River pageant on the cold and wet Sunday afternoon…and met Prince Harry, whilst Surrey Care Trust had their Swingbridge Boat in the river flotilla. Well done all – picture to follow on website and Surrey Youth News.

My excuse is that I was finalising the dissertation to go off to be bound so that it can then be submitted to the examiners..and I have done that, so it’s now all done, and I have a life back after 3 years and £4,000! Yeah I know…all self–inflicted…but great learning!! However my wife is still reflecting on what might have been done with £4K and about £500 worth of books!

It’s felt like an odd, short week, with lots of folks on leave for school holidays and the traffic much lighter.

However, we have some more bits of good news. My Chairman and I have met with the newly appointed Bishop of Croydon this morning about ways and means by which we might link more closely into that part of Southwark Diocese that extends into east Surrey – basically Reigate and Banstead, and Tandridge. We had a very good discussion and will be taking steps to improve mutual communications, and exchange of information, especially about current issues affecting young people. 

Then a recent graduate in Social policy and Criminology  has volunteered to be a research assistant with us, and we are delighted to have her start with us shortly to help me with the long awaited Research Report.

I have nearly finalised the Surrey Youth Enterprise project proposal this week and will be seeking funding for it from GMTs and others.

So it’s been a good week. I am now back in the gym and running again after 12 months of no sport and of course South Africa v. England (rugby obviously) has to be watched on Saturday afternoon…ignore the football (Monday pm).

And finally, against my better judgement, and my aversion to mixing work time, and home time, I have succumbed to a smartphone (Samsung Galaxy- I disapprove of Apple – shedloads of money which they do not give away to good causes)………..and I am ashamed to say….I think it’s great!


Friday, 1 June 2012

Behind the Scenes

This has been rather a bitty week punctuated by the dreaded IT problems and the prospect of the long Jubilee week-end looming.

But on Monday evening I went to the Boys Brigade (Cheam) annual awards evening, at which the star performers were their chess team who won the UK Boys Brigade chess competition with the finals being held in Ireland. A very positive achievement.

I then visited the Queen Elizabeth Foundation at Leatherhead to view premises for the start up of the Woking social enterprise. QEF has plenty of space and the prospect of locating the social enterprise there fits well with their strategic aim of developing the site as a community of social enterprises/charities. The only snag is that being out in the sticks their broadband connections are slow, but QEF are addressing that with a cloud based solution.

“Behind the scenes”, I had a great discussion on Wednesday with the person we hope will become our new Chairman in succession to David Hypher who has done so much for Surrey Youth Focus and many other charities. I have also  been working on compiling partners and support for our Surrey Youth Enterprise grant bid, and having discussions about the invitation to tender for the County Council’s Infrastructure Support Grant that will go out to open tender in the summer. I can’t say anything further about these at present. "Sensitive".

On the national front - interesting that the Government has now dropped the charity tax…along with the pasty tax….and the caravan tax ..Hmmm…."listening" or just ill thought out in the first place?

The Monarchy is a great institution..can you imagine how ghastly it would be to have an elected president? So let’s enjoy HM Queen’s special day and have no truck with those who lament the loss of GDP – anyway every shop I’ve seen seems to have a Jubilee theme to encourage sales!