NCB’s outgoing Chair of Trustees, Elaine Simpson, looks backs at her long-standing involvement with the charity.
It’s almost impossible to believe that it is now over six years since I took over as Chair of the National Children’s Bureau. But my association with the charity goes further back than that.
Through my time in Local Government, and particularly when I worked in special needs, I had always found the information, training and advice that NCB provides invaluable. So when I started as Chair I already had great faith in the organisation.
When my career took me into the private sector I still found myself working closely with NCB, and, in particular, the Council for Disabled Children (which has long been part of the NCB family), as I worked to deliver some of our government contracts.
The Council’s Director, Dame Christine Lenehan, provided essential advice and on more than one occasion she helped me to avoid some mistakes we might have made as private sector contractors! Christine’s support also kept us all focused on what would create the best outcomes for children and young people.
When I left Serco, I forged a portfolio career as a Non-Executive Director (NED) and within that work I knew I wanted a charity position. One of my NED roles was with Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Dr Hilary Emery, who was then Chief Executive of NCB, visited the hospital with Christine Lenehan to look at its participation and health commitments for children. I was excited to learn they were seeking a new Chair, and was absolutely thrilled when I was appointed.
NCB was at a major crossroads at that time. The organisation had over many years earned the support of successive governments and won large contracts which had provided a good deal of financial security.
Then things changed. The arrival of a new government in the wake of the financial crisis ushered in a very different financial environment for NCB and indeed all charities. When I started as Chair in 2012 we were already feeling the impact.
Since then the austerity screw has continued to tighten and funding to support children’s services has suffered more than many other areas.
At the same time, the demand for support for children and families has continued to increase and the pressure on services has mounted. This ‘perfect storm’ in funding for charities and children’s services has coloured my last six years and meant, at times, I’ve had to focus much of the board’s energies on financial management.
Throughout that time NCB’s directors have ensured we retain an effective focus on our mission and strategy, leading NCB’s staff team to continue to improve the lives of children with passion and unrivalled expertise.
Moreover, current Chief Executive Anna Feuchtwang and her team have led a transformation to unite more closely the family of networks at the heart of NCB, which have always been a source of great strength and rich expertise.
NCB continues to punch well above its weight in influencing policy and practice at a national level across England and Northern Ireland. Our involvement in introducing Outcomes Based Accountability (a methodology for improving the impact of projects both large and small) in Northern Ireland and beyond is a point of pride, as is our continuing leadership in special needs and disability. Our growing role in early years, cemented through projects like the Lambeth Early Action Partnership, is another source of satisfaction.
I can say with confidence, NCB holds a unique position with government and the children’s sector workforce and brings together voluntary sector partners in a way that ensures the whole becomes far greater than the sum of its parts.
During my six years I have worked with the most amazing set of fellow Trustees. I have had great and very talented Vice Chairs and the most fabulous treasurer. As a team I think we have helped drive NCB forward and contributed to its continuing success. I am particularly proud of our young Trustees and Young NCB representatives and their amazing contribution as part of the Board. They have helped to keep us grounded and remind us constantly of our purpose and values.
And as I step down as Chair, I have no doubt my successor, Alison O’Sullivan, will lead NCB from strength to strength, as the charity continues its vital work.
NCB is a wonderful organisation. It’s been an honour and a privilege to be so closely involved.