Business 365 Issue 6
Before working for The Children’s Centre I had various roles working with Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other regional arts and cultural organisations in the East of England. My roles covered all sorts but in simple terms I was aiming to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to engage more with their local culture. This wasn’t just about getting more bums on seats in museums or theatres, but using detailed evidence that the more people participate with local cultural experiences the better their wellbeing, the better their children’s education and ultimately the better their chances of employment and a fulfilling life.
'Partnership' was a word that came up again and again working in this sector. For the cynically minded – it felt like a way for the UK government to slash £s from budget lines to save money: "if you do this together we only have to pay one of you!". The consistent challenge with so many within the social and cultural sector is pretty much all organisations are in competition with each other. The British Museum would much rather feet through their doors than see visitors go to the Royal Opera House. To argue that 'partnership' is better for the sector requires the ability to see past individual institutions and aim to see the sector as a whole – it requires plural thinking. And when £s are in short thrift, this is very hard to do.
So what does this have to do with The Children's Centre? We work across the whole island to support children, young people and families who fall between the gaps in statutory provision. For example there might be a child who has self-esteem issues but doesn't yet meet the criteria CAMHS need to provide help. At that point we do our best to help the child and family in question – hopefully to prevent problems escalating and therefore needing the services CAMHS provide.
We live in a multi-media, faced-paced world where separating children's lives from the influence of friends, the internet, their schools and their families is almost nigh-on impossible. Health, Education and social services – I would argue – can't be separated. If a child is unwell they aren't going to cope in a school environment, so whose responsibility is it to make sure they get the best schooling they can?
This is where 'partnership' becomes a remarkable tool. If organisations can find ways to work together, to share collective goals and support each other in the work they do then the outcomes are increased massively. I would argue it is also cheaper in the long run.
However, partnerships to do cost money to set up in terms of time as well as cost. As an independent charity we have to raise all the money we need to provide the services we do, and therefore we try to spend as much of the money we raise on direct work with children and families. For me to ask the team to save 10% of their time for meetings, planning sessions and so forth goes against our working ethos, but to make partnerships work this is what we need to do. It's all very well me spending my time in meetings with other CEOs at a strategic level but if the same time isn't afforded at an operational level any attempt at partnership will fail. So why should we? Because the benefits far outweigh any organisational challenge in terms of setting up.
As an island community - in my humblest of humble opinions - we need to acknowledge that not all problems can be solved quickly, and that for some families lifelong help is what is needed. And for that care to be effective, considered and affordable then statutory services have to be collaborative partners with the third sector and voluntary organisations. Without the third sector families won't receive this long-term care and we collectively begin to abandon the most vulnerable in our society. I think we can do better than that.