Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Safeguarding young people in Surrey

Safeguarding has been popping up in my diary and conversations quite a lot of late.

I have been invited to represent the youth third sector on the Surrey Children's Safeguarding Board. Over time, I believe that my attendance at these meetings could make a difference to young people in Surrey - I know of a number of stories about how third sector organisations, particularly small voluntary ones, are not managing to exchange the information that they need with statutory bodies in order to provide the highest possible level of safeguarding. An example of this is that voluntary organisations need to know if there are any restraining orders on a young person turning up at a youth club if the victim might also be there. I hope that through attending the safeguarding board, and other initiatives, we can bring the statutory and voluntary sectors closer together on Safeguarding.

If you have any thoughts on safeguarding young people in Surrey let me know:

·         What is concerning young people about their safety?
·         Are you a third sector organisation that has concerns around safeguarding?
·         Perhaps you work for a statutory body and have ideas for change about your relationship with the third sector? 

      Feel free to reply to this blog or email me. 

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Surrey Young Superstars

Yesterday we celebrated some wonderful young people in Surrey at the Surrey Young Superstars Awards run in partnership with Haslemere Travel at the Radisson Blu in Guildford. Many of you will know that we have run our Celebration of Youth event for a number of years. This year, rather than have two separate events in the county, we chose to work with Haslemere Travel to celebrate the achievements of young people, under their brand – Surrey Young Superstars. Thanks to Savills Guildford who kindly sponsored the event.

The awards were presented by sailor Tracy Edwards MBE, well known for leading the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race and becoming the first woman to receive the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy. Tracy told her story, which is a wonderful example of why we should never give up on even the most troublesome young people... at 15 she was expelled from school and only found sailing when backpacking around Europe age 16. Thanks to Tracy for sharing her story and for presenting the awards.

Here are some snippets about the inspiring young people…

Aged only 12 Josh Bryan swam 22 miles in his local swimming pool – equivalent to swimming the Channel - raising more than £750 for Shooting Star Chase, but he didn’t stop there…he subsequently climbed the 541ft of Broadgate Tower in the city of London to raise a further £500. Josh was awarded Individual Fundraising Superstar (age 5-12).

  • Luke Kitterman was inspired to raise funds when a close friend was diagnosed with Ewings Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. Luke raised over £1000 with his friends Callum Brown and Zack Fuller by running the NUTS Challenge, a 7km obstacle course that is used by the Army for training.  Luke was awarded Individual Fundraising Superstar (age 13-19).
  • 14 year old Ronnie Barley won Caring Superstar and also the overall 2015 Superstar winner. Ronnie is the sole carer for his mother, who lives with a debilitating long-term illness. He supports his mother emotionally, physically and practically on a daily basis – cleaning, washing, feeding the pets, and ensuring his mother takes her medication.
  • Despite undergoing several major surgeries throughout her childhood, Bella Symons has always been determined to come back to school each time and carry on with her studies. A valued member of the Combined Cadet Force, in addition she coaches a football team for disabled children in her own spare time, where she makes a real, positive difference to the children on the team. Bella was awarded Courageous Superstar.
  • Sing-along concerts help build a rapport between the students at Royal Holloway College and over one hundred people in several nursing homes. Samuel Wong has expanded the Singalong group from just 4 to more than 200 members. He has led a group to increase volunteering amongst students and done other voluntary roles including supporting public consultations and promoting social harmony with the Surrey Police Independent Advisory Group. Samuel was awarded the Volunteering Superstar.
  • Surrey Heath Youth Council was awarded the Group Volunteering Superstar – it has been involved in all sorts of projects, including consulting and raising money to improve a local skate park, a litter pick up service, health service and bus service surveys and giving young people’s views on local development in Camberley. They also ran an anti-bullying conference and trained 100 young people from the Borough’s five main schools to become anti-bullying ambassadors, to support victims and help reduce bullying.
  • Epsom and Ewell PHAB, a youth club which integrates both able-bodied and children with disabilities wrote, produced and performed a musical called “We predict a riot” at the Epsom Playhouse. The team ran the event on a tight budget - organizing auditions, running extensive rehearsals at weekends, ordering costumes, booking the theatre, arranging publicity and, of course, selling tickets. Over 45 youngsters took part aged 8-18, either as performers or stage crew, helped by a team of 20 volunteers. They were awarded Enterprise Superstar.

We are grateful, as ever, for the wonderful support that we received from our patrons and other dignitaries in Surrey. Attendees included the Lord-Lieutenant, the High Sheriff, the chairman of Surrey County Council, the Mayor of Haslemere, the Deputy Mayor of Guildford, the Detective Chief Superintendent and 18 member organisations of Surrey Youth Focus. Checkout our website for pictures. 

Friday, 1 May 2015

Timebanks, Community & Sharing

I have had a pretty busy couple of weeks. Here are a few items that I would like to highlight.

Surrey County Council is running a project to get Time Banks set up across Surrey. Timebanks are a way of getting people to offer and receive skills in their communities. They often appeal to a different people in society to those who do traditional volunteering.  

“Within our communities we have a wealth of skills, interests and experience that we can share with each other. Timebanking is all about giving and receiving.  It works by people offering to share a skill, interest, experience or some practical support with other time bank members.  In return they can receive something they want from the time bank.”

If you want to know more, you can attend an information session in Guildford on 27th May. Otherwise contact Liz Tracey.

We presented Communilab to our Community Champions, Penningtons Manches solicitors, who were, as ever, very supportive and helpful. They took a good look at the system and came up with ideas as to how they can use it to help young people in Surrey.

In common with many of you I was saddened to hear about the devastation of Clandon Park in a fire this week. I was there just a week ago, enjoying the magnificent surroundings during the GASP ten year anniversary reception. It was an inspirational event, celebrating how young people's lives can be turned around and enhanced by practical projects working in conjunction with mainstream education. As you may have picked up by now, I strongly believe in the power of partnerships between charity/voluntary groups and businesses. Appropriate partnerships can do a lot more for a charity’s cause than just a monetary exchange. The support of McLaren has helped GASP on a number of levels. What better motivator for young people interested in mechanics than to have their awards event at McLaren? Also, the use of McLaren’s name has eased open other doors for GASP. Here’s to  GASPs next ten years…

(A little personal aside - it was particularly poignant for me when Sally Varah, GASP’s hardworking, inspirational chair, asked us to remember what we were doing 10 years ago. I can remember in some detail my two months visiting the neonatal unit in hospital every day where my tiny premature son spent the first couple of months of his life. He is ten years old this month and is healthy, happy normal boy.)