Friday, 25 April 2014

"It's the Young People....."

We’ve been working on papers for our Trustee Board next week, including end of year financial and business plan out-turns. The high spots include a big increase in website views, over 2,500 followers on Twitter and nearly 4,000 Views of this Blog, so thank you! I realise this is not quite Stephen Fry or Barack Obama blog territory, but it is encouraging.

We’ve made arrangements for the Charities Evaluation Service Pqasso assessor to make her peer review assessment of us for the Level 2 Award, and this will happen in early June. Quietly confident as I have said before; the process is a good one and forced us to identify and rectify some weaknesses as part of a constant process of making improvements in all we do.

Went to West Sussex County Council on Wednesday to talk to their head of youth services about the possibility of running a conference for the voluntary youth sector in that county as part of the legacy arrangements we have inherited from our now defunct sister organisation there. WSCC are at the early stages of moving to commissioning for outcomes whilst Surrey CC is embarking on its second complete cycle. The difference between the two authorities is very marked. WSCC has £ zero grants/contracts with the vol youth sector, so here in Surrey we are fortunate, though we may not always feel it. We agreed to hold a conference in West Sussex in November about gaps/shortfalls  that might be appearing after two years of zero spend in the sector – a needs analysis.

I had an intense day yesterday writing reports for the Board and getting the papers out…my 7.45 am start, and then went rather wearily to Eikon’s First Annual Awards evening, held at the very plush Sony hq offices in Weybridge.

I was so glad I went, for It was an amazing event, celebrating the achievements of  disadvantaged young people. Truly remarkable young people: the young man whose parents separated..then his best friend died..then his mum died..and now he’s all of 16/17. Then another young man who had a troubled and abusive family life ..went to court and the next day went back to school to take his GCSE exams at which he did very well, and so on. A great tribute was paid to the work of Eikon and to its founder and CEO Chris Hickford who proudly, and rightly leads a wonderful organisation that does very committed work with these young people.  For it’s always about the young people …. 

Thursday, 17 April 2014

47% Graduates Under-employed: Strategic Review

I have begun working on "Young Surrey: Strategic Review 2014-15" and as ever am rushing to have it ready to present to Trustees on 29 April.
The identification of issues affecting young people is by now well known. The Surrey Community Foundation's "Surrey Uncovered " is a superb account of the issues and inequalities in Surrey.It's based upon data held in Surrey-i , being Surrey CC's publicly available data store. The County Council's Youth Support Service also has an excellent  analysis of need as part of its work in re-commissioning of services. So what's left? Well there are some major changes to discern:

  • the blending of the private/public/charity sectors and attendant risks and opportunities to all parties -type "Serco fines" into GOOGLE to see my point
  • the shift in generations from baby boomers (me) to Generation X, to GenerationY (aka "Millenials") and now to "Generation Citizen " (see Demos report of that name). I'm giving a talk at a forthcoming Surrey Chamber of Commerce event on managing across generations
  • the issues of encouraging ("nudging") young people into work through volunteering and  Youth Social Action, growing social enterprises 
  • the constant growth in mental health issues, and so on.
So there's lots to focus upon. The mention of mental health is in part prompted by work this week to submit a bid to a grant -making trust today (closing date 19 April) on behalf of The Youth Consortium to raise awareness of mental health issues amongst youth workers, enabling them to spot indicators early, and to have better information on signposting to help. The bid is to produce a video and run workshops for youth workers

We have heard from our Pqasso (Practical quality assurance for small organisations) assessor who will be visiting us in early June to conduct a Level 2 Award assessment...bit scary, but we are quietly confident and have addressed deficiencies which the preparation process has thrown up , so are indeed continuously improving/learning.(We held Level 1 until it's expiry last November)
Easter week-end in prospect: finishing painting front door, lots of churchgoing, weather good, and entire family (11)  on Sunday/Monday- bliss!  Mike

Friday, 11 April 2014

The poverty of experience

It's been an odd week because so many people are away for the school holidays which this year precede Easter, and I took a rare day off in the mid week to be off the scene for the interviews for my successor as CEO. I understand it all went very well, but I think a forthcoming announcement needs to be made by the Chairman, not me...though I am biting my tongue/ holding back the digit! Next Friday.

The day off was interesting - visiting a major Food Bank in West Sussex, and seeing the scale...of the  a small supermarket. Just for the record the maximum supply of food that anyone can receive from a Trusserl Trust Food Bank is 3 days supply on 3 occasions in any 6 month period. So just a total of 9 days food over 6 months.It is real and much needed crisis support for very needy people, not propping up the feckless.

The main focus for me has been starting to write the "Young Surrey: Strategic Review 2014-15". This will be the second such report addressing the strategic context within which the voluntary youth sector is operating and identifying the issues affecting young people. As ever the early work shows the typical Surrey mixture of high achieving, low unemployment very successful, contrasted with rapid increase in mental health issues amongst young people, and sheer poverty. Amazingly some 12,000 young people in school, out of the total of 146,000 (8%) are receiving Free School Meals, being the leading indicator of poverty.The research by the Community Foundation for Surrey - "Surrey Uncovered" suggest that some 27,000 children and young people aged under 19 are living in poverty. 

The big themes of the Strategic Review will be: the blending of the sectors (private, public,charity) , the different values of this Generation (sometimes called C for connected) about which I'm talking at a future Chamber of Commerce meeting, and the issues of poverty, mental health. As regards the health issues we will be launching a survey of young people's views/experiences shortly, though the results will be too late for the Review which we're publishing in early May. 
Grandchildren for the week- end (THE greatest joy) and back to work for a rest on Tuesday!!

Friday, 4 April 2014

"Collaborative Contribution"

Interesting discussion at County Hall on Tuesday between Surrey CC CEO (David McNulty)  and colleagues, a CCG CEO,  and Surrey Charity Chief Executives Group. We were discussing partnership arrangements and the (excellent) principles for co - working that were developed at the first of these meetings last October.I made some opening remarks: that the private-public- charity sectors are becoming blended(see longer piece on website next Monday) and that just about every health issues you mention: obesity, alcohol, mental health self harming is being addressed by the vol sector too. At a time of austerity (ie the forthcoming 2015/16 cuts) there is a need to mine the contribution of the vol sector in what I call "collaborative contribution" rather than the "co- production" expression that is commonly used.

An example from today is the mental health bid that The Youth Consortium is putting in to a GMT to train up youth workers in the early identification of mental  health needs amongst young people. it is also very evident that the access to mental health/counselling support for young people is complex at best, chaotic at worst.

I had a briefing phone call from Surrey CC's Director of Children Schools and Families about items to be discussed at the Children and YP Operational Board that SYF is now joining. I want to raise the mental  health of young people issue.  

West Sussex CC want to hold a conference (at my suggestion) for the voluntary youth sector on the back of our workshop on "preparing for commissioning". WSCC Youth Services are now going down the path of "commissioning for outcomes" too.

We have submitted our bid for Pqasso Level 2  this week. We had the Level 1 QA award (Practical Quality Assurance for Small Organisations ) until last Nov when it expired, so we are re-submitting for assessment at the higher level. We will be visited by external assessor(s) over 1.5 days in the next 6-8 weeks. This is risky for us(and me personally)  but we are quietly confident that we are now a constantly learning, improving, supportive organisation.

Also developed an Interim Business Plan 2014/15 to go to the Board  ...deliberately avoiding anything new,  and just  managing the status quo as the new CEO gets selected on Tuesday if all goes well.

On the domestic front my wife and I are leading on setting up a Food Bank in our church...a sign of the times...and another collaborative contribution.