CEO's & Chair's Annual Report 2016.17
David Phillips' (CEO) Annual Report
The financial environment for the third sector continues to be tough, and in fact, appears to be getting tougher. During this period, we have noticed funders, some of them very large, have appeared to tighten their belts with the effect that funding is getting harder to secure for projects that would otherwise have been supported. Colleagues in other organisations are reporting similar experiences and, sadly, we have seen a number of other charities closing down.
Trustees take the view that an appropriate response to these conditions needs to go beyond wishful thinking.
A strategic response to the harsher funding conditions
Trustees have taken the view that a strategic approach to fundraising, one in which we know what we want, seek appropriate funders and make a well thought through case, is likely to be more successful than an opportunist approach when we hear somebody has money. Trustees believe that our strategic approach has been key to the relative success of the charity in the past, but that success has also brought challenges. As the charity has grown so the challenge of sustaining a larger organisation has grown. Consequently, Trustees have agreed that greater fundraising capacity, both staff time and skill, will be needed to maintain the investment referred to in the Chair's introduction. They have agreed that newly recruited managers will be expected to have some experience of fundraising and that existing managers will be provided with training and support to increase their bid writing skills. This will:
- Give us the capacity to write more timely funding applications and address the Trustees' ambition that we will be forward thinking (set out in the charity's fundraising strategy some years ago) so that no piece of work will have to finish because the associated grant has come to an end
- Promote quality in our bid writing because future bids will be prepared by managers who are more closely involved and more expert in their particular specialisms than, for example, the CEO would be and because we will have the capacity to 'peer review' application before they are submitted
- Reduce the charity's dependence on the bid writing skills of a small number of key staff
During the year, we had some success in securing additional funds for projects in areas of work that SEWREC has had an interest in for some time. This follows on from the Trustees' long term approach of developing areas of expertise and maintaining them:
- BME Sport Cymru: is a national partnership led by the WCVA, with local delivery partners in Swansea (EYST), Cardiff (REF), North Wales (NWREN) and South East Wales (SEWREC). The partnership is funded by Sport Wales to promote a sustainable increase in BME sport participation i) at all levels (including volunteering and employment in the sport industry) and ii) among all parts of our BME communities, including older people, women and girls
In South East Wales this project builds on SEWREC’s commitment to partnership, in particular with Newport Live who have provided expertise in sport and physical activity that complements our expertise in working with BME communities. This project follows on from two previous projects around sport and physical activity: Mentro Allan (with WCVA and Sport Wales) and JoinIn! (a transnational project with the Dutch Sport Council)
- EEA Migration: We have increased support for newly emerging communities from EEA countries with the support of the Newport Supporting People (SP) Team.
- Refugees: Building on our partnership with Taff Housing's Lighthouse Project, which has had a full-time housing worker based at SEWREC for some time, SEWREC now employs a housing worker of its own (with Supporting People funding) and the two work together seamlessly as a single team.
The support of the Newport Supporting People Team for both of these projects has allowed us to increase our capacity by allowing us to increase staff hours and by opening up opportunities to work more closely with other Supporting People funded agencies including the City Council itself and Taff Housing.
A Broad Range of Services
During the year, we have maintained services aimed at a broad range of client groups with a particular emphasis on continued investment in, and development of, areas of longstanding interest and expertise. Some of these services are provided by SEWREC staff and volunteers, but we have also partnered with other organisations and sometimes supported other organisations to deliver their own work where this also benefits our client groups.
Achievements and Performance
Women's Advocacy Project
The Women's Advocacy Project has been a major development, taking SEWREC's work with some of the most vulnerable women in our communities to a significantly higher level in terms of both numbers and quality. The resources made available by the Big Lottery Fund have allowed us to increase our skills level, our staff numbers and our ability to engage other agencies for the benefit of the women that we work with and the communities around them. In simple terms the aim of the project is to support those women most at risk of sexual exploitation and abuse because of their connection to the commercial sex trade. In more detail the project works with women to:
- Give them control over how they access information, advice and support:
- The women that we work with often feel powerless and Trustees are committed to challenging that dis-empowerment
- Barriers are avoided and trust is built when vulnerable people can access services on their own terms
- Help them to engage with the support services that they say they need
One of the key objectives of this project is to provide women with advocacy and support to meet the needs that they identify as the most urgent. Dealing with these gives them the stability they need to begin considering their longer-term needs. At the same time, we work with other agencies to help them engage more effectively with these women.
During the year, we have made significant progress against all of these objectives, but we have also developed a significantly better understanding of the commercial sex trade locally and associated issues, for example the relationship between the sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of children and their later involvement in the sex trade as adults.
All SEWREC projects are premised on the notion that partnership brings greater resources and effectiveness to our work, but we have been taken aback by the number of other agencies who have sought the support of this particular team, for example we provided specialist advice to Newport's Domestic Homicide Review Panel. At the same time Gwent Police, IOM (Integrated Offender Management) Cymru, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, Newport Youth Service, Gwent Drug and Alcohol Service (GDAS) and Newport Women's Aid have provided support, skills and resources allowing the project to:
- Address health issues more effectively
- Develop a common 'pathway' so that the work of one agency supports the work of others
- Begin tackling other issues like the sexual exploitation of children
Migrants, Asylum Seekers and Refugees
SEWREC has worked with EEA migrants, asylum seekers and refugees for many years and has longstanding partnerships with other key players in each of these areas including Gwent Education Multi-ethnic Support (GEMS), Newport & District Refugee Support Group, the Welsh Refugee Council, the Sanctuary Project (Bethel Church) and Aneurin Bevan Health Board:
- SEWREC's Reception Area is open to people of all backgrounds, but it is particularly well patronised by migrants, asylum seekers and refugees most of whom would not otherwise have access to computers, printing, WiFi and easy communication with the friends and family scattered across the UK or the World.
- The Health Board have based the specialist nurse for asylum seekers at St David's House for several years now, providing the first contact with the Welsh NHS, introductions to GPs and an initial screening of their health needs.
- SEWREC provides dedicated advocacy and support to EEA migrants and to newly confirmed refugees (in partnership with Taff Housing) around any of the issues that contribute to their successful engagement with Welsh society, from housing advice, to health services, and from debt management to enrolment in schools or English classes. In the case of Refugees this is restricted to the issues that impact on their ability to find and maintain a tenancy, but nonetheless remains relatively wide and effective.
- Newport & District Refugee Support group operate a weekly drop-in for asylum seekers and refugees designed to provide a safe and friendly space where they can socialise, practice their English, learn about Newport and the other communities that live here and find information about accessing other services both specialist and mainstream.
The Family Skills project is the largest and most ambitious project that SEWREC has ever delivered. It aims to challenge childhood poverty by:
- Supporting working age people in low income families to gain, and progress within, employment
- Reducing the number of families whose income falls below 60% of median income after housing costs by supporting people to get work, better paid work, or more secure work
SEWREC leads a consortium made up of Melin Homes, Newport City Homes, Llamau, GAVO and the WEA to tackle all of the challenges that make it difficult for people on low incomes to progress, for example:
- Accessing their entitlement to benefits, supporting budgeting skills and managing debt
- Improving social and basic skills, for example improving confidence, literacy, numeracy, ICT and English language skills
- Learning how to find work, make effective job applications and do well at interviews
- Undertaking training so that they have the skills that employers need
- Dealing with other challenges like childcare, health issues and substance misuse
Important to this project's philosophy is the notion that the adults will set their own goals, review their own progress and make changes to reflect their progress by breaking goals down into smaller and more manageable targets and setting new ones as the old ones are met. Each challenge is used to reassess and lookfor new ways to move forward and each success is used to boost confidence and raise ambition.
The BME Sport Project is a national partnership covering most of Wales, but more importantly our role in delivering the South-East Wales part of that project is also a partnership with local community groups, other third sector organisations and Newport Live. The partnership approach is key to the success that the project has had, as a result more:
- People from BME communities are now taking part in sport and physical activity (as participants and as coaches and organisers)
- People from BME backgrounds are volunteering and we have supported many of them, and existing volunteers, with training in a wide range of skills designed to enable them to sustain their activities, to progress into the paid sports workforce and to secure funding independently
- Mainstream community-based sporting organisations and National Governing Bodies (NGBs) have worked directly with people and organisations in the community to make sure that BME people are involved in mainstream sport
Maindee Youth Work
The Maindee Youth Work Project is a partnership with Community House (Eton Road), where the project is based. The project draws together the philosophy of the two organisations and has been running with the support of BBC Children in Need since 2015.
Community House has been working since the 1960s to bring people from different backgrounds together (notably people of different faiths, cultures and ages) to build a caring community in the Maindee area of Newport. During that time, they have worked hard to establish unrivalled access to people from a wide range of backgrounds in that community making them ideal partners for a project designed to encourage young people to be more active and more vocal in the local community.
The Maindee Youth Work project employs 3 part-time youth workers to deliver a range of activities with young people in a way that puts them in control, relies on them to make things happen and seeks to make their contribution to the community around them as visible as possible.
Gypsies & Travellers
SEWREC has been engaged in advocacy work with both the Gypsy and the Traveller communities of Gwent for more than 10 years. Over that time, we have built strong links into the community, a significant understanding of the two cultures and strong reputation and good working links with other agencies including Gwent Police, Traveling Ahead and the Welsh Government.
Notable successes in this period include our facilitation of the National Assembly for Wales' Cross Party Group on Gypsies & Travellers where we have worked with partners and the community to i) develop a steering group chaired by Julie Morgan AM, that brings structure to the Group, and pre-meeting work with community members to make sure that they have the best possible chance to influence AMs, Ministers and civil servants.
SEWREC's reception area is one of the busiest, and yet most easily overlooked, of our projects. The area has a number of purposes, to:
- Provide members of the community with a safe space (and support) to do online research, access public bodies and utilities through their websites or telephone helplines and to stay in touch with friends and families who may have been dispersed widely across the UK or the World.
- Provide volunteering opportunities that help volunteers to develop their confidence, give them an opportunity to practice their English, strengthen their CVs and a chance help other people.
- Receive visitors, take calls and pass messages onto other staff and volunteers.
Supporting Community Groups and other Agencies
SEWREC's philosophy has always been about partnership, but we are also keen to see other agencies who have similar aims and similar client groups succeed in the delivery of their own projects. We are pleased to have a growing number of projects working from St David's House, SEWREC's own base, in the centre of Newport:
- Aneurin Bevan University Health Board: holds a number of nurse-led drop-ins at St David's House including twice weekly surgeries for asylum seekers and monthly blood borne virus and sexual health clinics for people who might be reluctant to visit clinical settings for fear of being seen
- Czech, Slovak and Hungarian Children's Groups: meet weekly bringing parents and children together to promote socialisation and to maintain a good working knowledge of their 'home' language and culture
- Gwent Police: delivered an ESOL programme in partnership with SEWREC, targeted at EEA migrant communities designed to challenge misconceptions of UK law (and law enforcement
- Newport & District Refugee Support Group: have held a weekly drop-in for refugees and asylum seekers for many years and also hold their trustee meetings at SEWREC
- Newport City Radio: is a digital media project that provides a safe space and volunteering opportunities for an eclectic group of people who share an interest in music, social media publishing, blog writing or radio. The station's output is made up of written and video blogs and internet streamed radio programmes, while the training provided to volunteers is designed to develop skills that can easily be transferred to other settings, for example increased confidence, team working and timekeeping skills
- Rainbow Newport: provides a monthly drop-in at St David's House for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people, their friends and families as well as holding their committee and planning meetings in our committee rooms
- Newport Contact Centre: facilitate supervised contact between children and their parents twice monthly
- Age Alive: is a social group for older people, particularly targeting those communities where there are higher numbers of older people from BME backgrounds. The group brings potentially isolated older people together socially twice a week for an opportunity to catch up on the gossip, do exercise and cook together.
Regular trips, both educational and social, are designed to keep people's minds and bodies active and to take them to places that they would probably not have the opportunity to visit without the support of the group. Age Alive has desk space, full use of SEWREC's office facilities (internet, telephones and printing) and holds its committee meetings at St David's House
St David's House is well located in Newport city centre to make it accessible to most people and over the next few years we will refurbish the building and add new facilities to make sure that groups that use the building have what they need to provide the best possible service to their clients.
I'm guessing it will be another busy year ahead
Plans for future periods
Board members are clear that it is their role to provide the charity with the strategy to succeed and to provide the managers with the tools to make the charity a success. They are also clear that SEWREC has been most successful in those areas of its work where their strategy has been clear. In the next financial year, they will focus on 3 key areas:
- Sharing the Vision and Ethos: they will review, clarify and share the philosophy that underpins the work of the charity and they will expect every project and every function of the charity to be carried on in line with these fundamental principles.
- Recruitment of Board Members: they will review the way that Board members are recruited, put together clear role descriptions and consider how the Board’s diversity could be further expanded and maintained.
- Strengthening the Management Team: to reduce the charity’s reliance on a small number of key staff, for example ensuring that all new managers have fundraising experience and that existing managers have support or training to develop those skills. This increase in capacity will be critical to the charity’s ongoing success in the next few years.
Kebba Manneh's JP Esq (Chair) Annual Report
SEWREC's Trustees take a strategic approach to the management of the charity and are keen to see tangible progress over time. In particular, they want to see that the charity makes progress each year and that each year we build on the work of previous years. Over time we have tried to build a niche within the third sector by developing a range of specialisms that:
- Tackle challenging issues
- Address real problems, so that communities see a real benefit
- Have a real impact on the life chances of the individuals that we work with
This focused approach has allowed us to build a team of people that is both skilled in their areas of work and highly motivated. This team is the reason for the charity's success and we remain committed to continuing to support each of them to 'be the best that they can be' by:
- Investing in their personal development
- Designing a more supportive supervisory model
- Providing them with challenge and support in equal measure
This same approach is allowing us to build a reputation around our areas of expertise. We believe that we also have a growing reputation for being a positive partner that other agencies want to work with, for having a solution-based approach, and for bringing resources and skills (including project development and fundraising) to the partnership table. As we move forward Trustees will continue with this general philosophy, working with others, building on the past and investing the future.