There is a strong sense of Team within the Charities and a real desire to ensure our children are well cared for, our families fully supported and that we work in partnership with the Local Authorities to achieve the best outcomes.
The last year has been one of reviewing our values, our processes, partnerships, and use of technology.
We believe we live our core values, which are:
The last year has been a successful period of consolidation and I believe we are in a strong position to develop and grow over the coming years, whilst retaining that sense of family and the importance of relationships.
Hugh Pelham, Chief Executive
There have been many changes in the past year: the change in Chief Executive and Registered Manager and the introduction of a Business Development Manager. Lyn Taylor has become the Registered Manager whilst Chris Cawkwell has changed roles and is working closely with Hugh on the business and development side of the Charity.
Hugh believes that all staff and foster carers should be involved in the decision making process. He has also introduced the Board to the Management Group who now regularly attend Board Meetings to inform Trustees of developments within the service.
Hugh has attended the support groups in the South to hear the carers’ views and to see if there were any changes they would like to see. He also informs them of how the company is progressing. The carers are coming together and more are attending the groups.
The Placement Support Workers have been involved in setting up many projects with the young people including the National Citizen’s Scheme, the Avenger Task Force and a road safety initiative. They undertook the annual consultation day in January and the purpose of this was to consult with the looked after children and young people of foster carers in order to seek their views with regard to how they see the Charity.
A number of enquiries from potential carers have been received in both Gloucestershire and Wiltshire which is very encouraging and the number of children and young people has increased significantly over the year.
Lyn Taylor, Registered Manager
It has been a very busy year for the North Region, we have welcomed the arrival of our new CEO and all the service developments that have occurred as a result. The focus for the teams in both the Lancashire and Cumbria areas is to grow our carer base; we have a very full and active recruitment campaign in order to achieve this. This plan is supported by the establishment of our own Panel which is based in Lancaster. Our Panel became operational in December 2014 and has been critical in establishing the region’s own identity as well as making the Panel process much more manageable for existing and potential carers.
Our Cumbria project based in Workington, grew temporarily with the addition of our third year social work student, Loren. Loren was a real asset to the organisation, so much so that she will be taking up a full time position with the agency from July. We plan to facilitate a further student placement in Lancaster in September this year.
Children and families have enjoyed a varied programme of activities over the year with trips to Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the zoo, swimming and ten pin bowling to name but a few. Our children’s consultation group ‘Student Voice’ has also met on a number of occasions and has undertaken a number of activities including a sponsored walk up Dodd Fell, volunteering at a local nursing home and participation in the Children’s Commissioner’s ‘take over day’. We are looking forward to developing the children’s participation groups further in the coming year.
In recent months we have seen the region grow significantly and we now have 13 approved families with plans to increase this significantly over the next year whilst ensuring that we maintain a high quality service to all our children and carers.
Emma Weaver, Registered Manager
During the course of 2014/15 Community Family Care has worked with 22 families across Tewkesbury and Gloucester through the Troubled Families programme, known locally as Families First. This has involved using a strength based approach to empower families to make changes and achieve positive outcomes. For example, we have supported families to maintain suitable housing; find employment; tackle substance misuse problems and have enabled children to remain safely in the care of their parents.
The Charity has also delivered therapeutic life story work training to the Community Foster Care office in the North, enabling them to offer life story work to support young people in their care. We have also supported three young people through our mentoring provision and have run a Triple P parenting group for Barnardo’s in the Forest of Dean. We are hoping to build and develop our partnerships with local organisations in the forthcoming year.
Community Family Care has also been developing its service provision to best meet the needs of its local community and its key priority for the year ahead is sourcing funding for new projects. We have recently been awarded funding through the Healthy Together Programme, part of Gloucestershire County Council, to set up craft groups for socially isolated parents across Tewkesbury and Gloucester, which will be set to start in September 2015. The aim is to provide parents with a safe space to meet new people and develop new skills, empowering them to build networks within the local community.
Sasha Brown, Manager
Steve and I went into fostering because we felt we could offer children not so fortunate as our own a fresh start.
We continue to foster because we enjoy a challenge and feel no problem is too big to conquer. We work together as a family - it keeps us on our toes and in touch with what the youngsters enjoy doing. The children that stay with us become part of our family and attend family holidays and other family activities.
We’ve found that once the children move on, we see them more. When living at home, they would often not be hungry but now when we go out they are always starving and can manage starters, main course and always a dessert.
It has been an exciting year for the Trustees. We thank Diana Robinson for acting as Chair throughout the first half of the year and supporting our new Chief Executive during his first few months. John McLaughlin was appointed Chair in November 2014 and Diana resumed her role as Vice Chair. We owe her a great debt of gratitude.
Other key achievements included:
• Appointment of Charles Wade - Trustee.
• Appointment of Emily Axford - Carer Representative, South.
• Funding and Safeguarding sub-committees established.
The Board has been enthused by the positive changes in the Charities and has been very involved in reviewing our values and strategic direction.
Both Community Foster Care and Community Family Care achieved good financial results for the year. Whilst an overall deficit of £28,500 was reported, this was well below the deficit that was budgeted. The final payment for the KEEP programme, reduced spending on marketing and a doubling of Community Family Care’s income were the main factors in the final position. Reserves of over £560,000 and no debt means that the Charities remain in good health.