Barnardos Annual Report and Financial Statements 2018

Barnardos. (2020). Barnardos Annual Report and Financial Statements 2018.
There is an often quoted phrase from Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and statesman, which has always resonated with me “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” This is at the heart of what Barnardos does - working with vulnerable children and families who have experienced or are at risk of adversity from a range of sources. In 2018, Barnardos helped 17,799 children and families. We have worked with children and families to build children’s resilience and strengthen parenting skills. We have worked in schools to develop social and emotional skills to support children’s learning, and we have worked within communities to connect families with local supports. We aim to protect childhood and help every child reach their full potential. It is estimated that 15-20% of children experience some degree of social and emotional difficulties that make them vulnerable. Based on the CSO’s figure for Ireland’s population, this means that approximately 180,000 children in Ireland could be experiencing difficulties at any point in time. I know that many of these children will not need Barnardos services as they have enough family and social support networks and resources to buffer the impact of adversity and access the help they require but Barnardos aims to provide services to those who do. These are children who are facing challenges in one, or maybe more, of the following: in their living situation (for example, through poverty, community crime and homelessness); in their families (maybe through family conflict or domestic abuse, bereavement or acrimonious separation); in parental wellbeing (including addictions, mental illness). In addition we know that children in lone parent families have been disproportionately impacted by the austerity policies implemented in recent years. Lone parent families are consistently among the worst off in society and children in these families are particularly vulnerable. The most effective and cost efficient way to protect childhood and to maximise children’s potential is to support their family. Ensuring all parents have the knowledge, skills and resources they need to best care for their children is the best (and evidenced) method to reduce the impact of adverse experiences on children and improve their resilience and outcomes. For a variety of reasons many families need more support than friends and family can offer – and they need to be able to access skilled family support services. Proper investment in skilled family support services based in all our communities will help us build strong children and break the cycles of adversity and should be a priority investment area for any new Government. Another year on and the housing crisis shows little signs of abating. Thousands of childhoods are being damaged by emergency accommodation or overcrowded or substandard housing. While there rightly has been much coverage of the child homelessness figures (3,559 at the end of 2018), there are thousands more who suffer hidden homelessness. These are children with no home of their own but who are not included in the Government figures and don’t qualify for support services because they are temporarily accommodated with extended family or friends, usually in overcrowded accommodation unsuitable for children. We continue to see the fallout from this in our services around the country. Against this backdrop of need, during 2018 Barnardos operated in a very competitive funding environment, both from statutory funding and fundraising perspectives. As a result we have increased concerns due to ongoing under-funding for our services by statutory funders. As a consequence of the statutory funding cuts imposed in 2009 and the fact that no cost of living increase has been applied since then, the gap between what our programmes are costing us to run and what we are receiving from Tusla and other statutory agencies has increased significantly. While we have managed to cover the increased costs of our services for children and families and avoid reducing service provision in line with the funding reductions by using voluntary fundraising, our ability to continue to do so has reached its limit and the gap is growing beyond our ability to cover it. As part of our ongoing review of the strategic plan for Barnardos, with a new CEO in place since October 2018, and conscious of the financial sustainability challenges, the Board of Barnardos have decided to revise the strategic plan for the period 2019-2021. While the progress against the objectives previously set has been largely on track, the Board felt that with the appointment of a new CEO allied with funding challenges, it is opportune to relook at the strategic direction of the organisation. A new strategic plan will be presented to the Board in 2019. Regretfully 2019 is my final year as Chair of Barnardos and I am both proud of the achievements of the organisation over the past six years of my tenure and sad at the thought of retiring as Chair. It has been my great privilege to work with a fantastic board and senior management team led by Fergus Finlay. Fergus’ retirement in 2018 after 13 years at the helm was a critical juncture for Barnardos. However, with the appointment of Suzanne Connolly to the role I am confident that the organisation is in safe hands.