As we start to snuggle down in our homes and prepare to hear “Big Ben” chiming in a New Year, it is worth reflecting on how far we have come over the last year. Externally, it has been a time of change, little did we know as we prepared to transition out of Covid 19 lockdowns, that Russia, would invade Ukraine, fuel prices would send the cost of living spiralling, riots would return to Leicester, we would have a new King and be on our third Prime Minister. Although we might have anticipated that a penalty miss would once again crush England’s men’s team’s world cup dreams, although the Lionesses showed us all how to win a final in style.
As a team we entered the year as the “Charity of the year” and continued to win award after award, proof if it were needed that the work we do is recognised and appreciated by a vast array of stakeholders.
Our Education work continued to mobilise hundreds of business volunteers to share their soft and hard skills and knowledge with thousands of young people in schools across our city and county. Our efforts to work with “All” young people saw us developing creative projects in partnership with a range of local stakeholders to work with partially sighted and SEND students. As the business community returned to work, we juggled competing demands and balanced remote and face to face volunteering in a seamless fashion that made the task seem far easier than it actually was.
Our Community Development work saw us working hand in hand with a wide variety of partners across the city and county. Thousands of people were supported by our partners, as we strengthen their capacity through team challenges and skills exchange, whilst also distributing thousands of “Bags of Hope.” Our “Power to Change” partners forum developed into a strong platform and “voice” for the sector and we are anticipating it being a focus for long term structural change alongside the more immediate work we support. The neighbourhood youth work we are developing across the city is going from strength with new groups being developed with a range of community and public sector partners.
Our work with Care Experienced Young People, continued to develop and we worked hard to build new partnerships, whilst also hosting national policy debate webinars and enabling young people to share their lived experiences and voices with key decision makers both locally and nationally. From MPs to the Chair of the Independent Care review, influential people listened and were moved and impressed by our young people. Alongside this many young people were offered support, a helping hand and a bit of hope when times were tough.
Our VIP project went from strength to strength and is now an established key stakeholder in the support offered to young people in danger of being dragged into criminal lifestyles. Many young people, responded positively to the creative and agile support we offer and used their time on the project to identify and act on life goals that would give them positive pathways to grow and develop. We have also enabled the PCC to get out and meet a diverse range of community groups and this has led to some winning funding to develop their youth work. Our work has benefitted immensely from the informed support we have been offered by the VRN.
Our YES project has been operating against a backdrop of ESF funding ceasing in March 2023. So, kudos, to the team who have continued to work hard to develop a range of opportunities for young people to develop employability skills. The “tough truth” is many of the people we work with on the project are quite a long way from the workplace and as the YES project starts to wrap up, we are keen to use our leaning to develop a youth employability project that will support SEND young people.
Our Admin, Finance, Operation and HR team, have been a platinum cog in the machine called Leicestershire Cares. Throughout all the challenges and change we have had to deal with, our operations have kept running smoothly, reports are submitted on time and a hundred and one issue that have cropped up from rats to, leaking roofs, to unreliable internet connections to supporting staff with personal issues have all been dealt with in a prompt, professional, kind and caring way.
There are many more achievements, I could site, from the way our social media presence has provided a platform for our sector to the way our thinking on creativity, agility, partnership and empowerment has rung a bell with many key agencies and decision makers.
Of, course we are not perfect and as we enter 20023, we want to improve our ability to work in a more joined up way across the team. We also want to be better at reflecting and learning from our practice. Moving beyond just data capture and reporting numbers to a more nuanced analysis, of why some of our projects work well and other not so well, so we are able to further improve our work.
As pleasing to me as the delivery of the work we do has been, that throughout the year and all the change we have faced by and large we remain a happy and kind team. Our annual staff survey, showed once again, staff feel valued and supported. Every day, I see staff going out of their way to help and support all their colleagues even if not everyone remembers to “wash, dry and put away.” So, whilst some highly valued colleagues have moved on, new team members have quickly found themselves being part of the team and this seamless transitioning, speaks volumes about our formal and informal team structures and working culture.
We enter 2023 in strong a position, we are an award winning team, who have won funding for our work and have a growing reputation as a can do organisation who delivers. However, we are not and cannot be complacent, we know tough times are ahead. Most commentators agree the next couple of years are going to be hard especially for the poor and cuts to vital services are going to cause hardship and misery.
So, it is vital as we look forward, we draw on our collective strengths and use our creativity and agility to ensure whilst remaining true to our values, we can continue to adapt and develop partnerships as required so we can offer support to those most in need as we seek to create a city and county where all can thrive and despair is turned into hope.
As always it has been an honour and a pleasure to work with and learn from all of you and I thank you for your efforts.
CEO Leicestershire Cares