The (I haven't got time to write a blog!) Blog Page
Apologies for the gap in blogs; but as we said at the beginning ‘ I don’t have time to write a blog’.
The Clock has had a difficult few months managing cuts in funding (as have many charities) and I felt that I needed to put all my time into securing the organisation. Also most of my time is spent at the laptop surrounded by piles of paper (have you seen my desk anywhere?) so it’s not often enough that I get to see and hear the differences our team is making.
Three things have prompted me to get back to the blog. Yesterday a man came in for some advice and guidance; it’s only the second time we have seen him. The first time was over a year ago when he popped in to use the phone. Fortunately for him one of our very skilled staff read between the lines and identified that the man was at risk. With the support of staff from partner agencies we were able to get him the support he needed. As he left yesterday he said to one of our team ‘I’ve got a lot to thank someone here for’. Hearing this made me fill with pride on what we achieve here.
Last month I was needed to cover delivering one of our courses. I’ve got a constant dilemma between wanting to work with our members and knowing I need to be writing the next bid. However if I didn’t deliver the course, our young people would miss out. So I squeezed in putting together lesson plans and resources. I did my best to make internet security sound interesting and the young learners engaged. At the end of the day one young man, who when we first met him was a pain at school, passed me a post it note which said ‘thanks, I know how to send an email’. That’s all he needed to say.
And thirdly, it’s my staff. As I said, it’s been a difficult time. Not only haven’t we replaced staff who have left but the loss of funding has left us in an uncertain position. I’m amazed at the staff’s positive response of ‘we’ve still got a job to do’. We’re heading into our busiest period when we offer an exciting activity programme on top of everything else. This week double the number of young people we expected joined our ‘Improving Your Prospects’ employability programme, and the responses have been great. Already one young man has got an apprenticeship and said that the interview skills session had helped him get it. Other young people have said that it’s great and they have learnt a lot already.
I’ve learnt from this that no matter how difficult the challenges are here, they’re completely worth the effort because we’re making positive differences every day.
March 2017 (missed February because i REALLY didn't have time to write a blog)
It’s 15 years this month since Thirsk Clock was created and its amazing what a big part of many people’s lives it has become. I remember years ago when one of our young members moved to Leeds. When he came back to Thirsk to visit his grandparents he usually popped in to see us. He told me the story of when he went into the city centre, he asked where was Leeds Clock. He couldn't believe that there wasn't a 'Clock' in every town. He said 'well where do teenagers go when they need someone to talk to?'
One of the best parts of the job is when one of our past members calls in for a cup of tea and a catch up; usually with good news to share with us. It's a privilege to see what lovely young adults they have become. This month we have had a few members from the past come in for support as things have taken a turn for the worse for them. But before the problems became a crisis, they came in for advice and support and we were able to help.
I'm really pleased to be welcoming back two familiar faces to our staff team; both have worked for The Clock in other roles. They only left as funding for their posts came to an end. Funding is our biggest problem as most of it is short term and although we're constantly looking for new funding, it's almost impossible for us to keep staff when we're in between projects. This has meant that we have lost excellent staff.
In my November blog I shared with you a message from one of our members. She has since joined our staff team and is proving to be a real asset. Our staff team are widely recognised as highly skilled and dedicated. We recently asked schools to evaluate our Active Engagement Service. The feedback was extremely positive with comments such as 'The Clock provides the school with professional and high quality services' and 'All the staff are friendly, professional and they genuinely care about they are working with'. The only constructive criticism was 'throughout the three years i have worked closely with the team, I have had three different workers'. We've got one more vacancy 'Development and Quality Manager'. It's an innovative role which will help us develop new services and continue to improve existing ones (please see our website for details'.
We're keen to share with you more of what we do so we would like to invite you to our 'It's time to see what makes The Clock tick' event on 19th April. Call in anytime between 2pm and 6pm for a cup of tea, cake and a tour of our services.
Until next time.....
As expected, Christmas was a busy time here. The donations of food and toiletries from local businesses and families were amazing. With the help of our friends and staff from partner agencies, we put together and delivered nearly 40 extra special food parcels for young people and families who were in financial hardship. The responses were incredible including ‘Please thank everyone for thinking of us’ and ‘This has given me one less thing to worry about’. However we’re now very low on food so if you have food or toiletry items that you’re not going to use, please bring them here. Members of Thirsk’s slimming world have handed in their left over chocolates and biscuits and they’ve kindly brought them here.
Our first ‘Improving Your Prospects’ course is underway for unemployed young people who want to improve their personal skills and gain new qualifications. So far they have completed a first aid course and have started on their IT programme. Previously we have had huge successes in preparing young people for and helping them secure appropriate employment, training or education. The team are highly skilled in building confidence and raising aspirations. The next programme will start in February so if you know of a young person who might benefit please contact Kirsty.
We also have programmes for adults in the area. Each week we have drop in sessions for adults which offer help finding employment, improving IT skills and coffee, cake and a chat. The drop ins are in the Church on Mondays between 2.30 and 4.30pm and Wednesdays between 9.30 and 11.30am. Once again if you know someone who would benefit, please send them along. We will shortly be advertising a new role to support adults so keep checking our website.
In March 2002, I along with many others, was invited to a meeting to discuss the idea of starting a project for young people in Thirsk. As a result of work delivered by Thirsk’s Community Education Team and members of Thirsk and District Churches Together, it had been identified that some young people felt isolated and wanted somewhere to go. Their wish list was,’a safe, warm building, with hot drinks and computers. With access to support. And if they were really lucky; a pool table’. Not much has changed apart from the numbers needing support have increased.
I am so proud that 15 years on from forming the charity ‘Thirsk Clock’ and despite a number of tricky moments, we‘re still here. We have planned a number of celebration and fundraising events for the year including a Ball at The Angel, in Topcliffe on 25th March. The calendar of events is on our website and we really hope that you will join us in celebrating our 15th Anniversary.
I am lucky to work with such a talented and dedicated staff team and be guided by a knowledgeable and committed Board of Trustees. I feel privileged to witness young people overcoming barriers and growing in to lovely young adults. And amazed at the support of our community; it is your support of donations, food and household items which enable us to make the lives of our members that little bit easier. And last but not least; the members of St James Methodist Church who continue to enable us to deliver our fantastic services.
Happy New Year from everyone at The Clock.
We have so many things happening at The Clock that I’ve struggled to find time to write this month’s blog. We have just recruited a Programme Leader for our Enhancement Team who I’m sure will be a great asset. The Clock’s Enhancement Team delivers learning programmes to young people and adults. We deliver a wide range of courses including youth work, functional skills and first aid. Starting straight after Christmas John (that’s right, we will have 2 Jons and 1 John) and Kirsty will be delivering an IT and employability programme to unemployed young people aged 16 to 24. Then with support of staff, the young people will be supported into employment, education or apprenticeships.
Those of you who know mw will know that I’m a ‘glass half full’ person. I’m sorry to say that my optimism was put to the test when I received a reply from the Garfield Weston Foundation. I’d applied to the Trust for funding to employ a new post to help us become more sustainable. Their reply arrived in a small DL envelope. I know from years of experience that good news from Funders comes in A4 envelopes. The ‘thank you for your application … but sorry ….’, come in the little envelopes. After about one hour of it sitting on my desk I prepared myself for the rejection and opened it. I couldn’t believe it when it contained a cheque for £30,000 and a lovely message saying ‘We hope all continues to go well with your work’. I am overwhelmed from the support we have received from the Garfield Weston Trust and thrilled to be advertising the exciting post of ‘Enterprise Manager’ (please see our website for job description). We also have vacancies for Business Admin Apprentices.
The Christmas period is a busy time of year here at The Clock. Our staff do their very best to provide emotional and practical support to our members. Sadly for many, Christmas isn’t a time to celebrate or spend quality time with friends and family. Instead it’s a time of sadness, loneliness and worry. Thanks to donations from the community and local businesses we are able to provide a number of sessions over the holidays when individuals can come in for a hot meal and someone to talk to; we’re even open 10am – 1pm on Christmas Eve. We’re also able to provide extra food parcels so please let us know if you know someone who would benefit from one. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone of you who has made this possible. A number of you collect money to assist with the work of The Clock. Practice, to date, has generally been for the organisation to count the contributions and send a cheque for the amount to The Clock. Recent changes to gift aid regulations within HMRC means that organisations can reclaim tax on cash donations, but in order to do so The Clock needs to receive the donations in cash rather than by cheque. Accordingly, wherever possible, when you make such collections could you let The Clock have the cash as the reclaimed tax will increase the sum by 25%.
Finally, a little reminder to choose us as your community project with the Co-Op as it will give us 1% of what you spend on its products. For more information about The Clock please go to our website www.theclock.org . On behalf of everyone at The Clock, thank you for your support and best wishes for 2017.
The Clock is almost unrecognisable from the small project that opened in Thirsk in 2003 with just enough money to pay two of us for a year. We now have three teams of staff; Aspirations, Enhancement and Active Engagement. The Aspirations Team are the staff who deliver the work to young people (and adults) which Thirsk Clock was established to do. They deliver a range of programmes including youth clubs for primary school children, social activities for teenagers and support to address issues which are preventing someone from moving forward with their lives.
The Active Engagement Team support young people in year 11 (that’s 5th year for those as old as me) who for a variety of reasons do not have firm plans of what they will do when they leave school. Our staff work with the young people individually to help them identify issues or barriers and find solutions to them. We’re currently working in 23 secondary schools, supporting over 200 young people. The support doesn’t end once they leave school but instead we stay in touch with each young person for at least 6 months after they leave to ensure that we’re there to help if anything arises. Out of last year’s caseload, 96% are still in education, employment or training.
I spend a great deal of time analysing the data collected and evaluated by staff to identify gaps in our provision and turning them into programmes. That’s the easy part; I then search for potential funders whose aims match our needs. Writing a funding application is a skill and unfortunately I have found out that it takes the same effort to write an unsuccessful one as a successful one. I am thrilled to say that we have just been awarded two contracts to support unemployed young people and adults into education, employment or training, so if you know of anyone who might benefit please contact me at The Clock. And because of the new funding we have vacancies in our award winning team; please go to our website for more details.
I started this blog by saying we’re almost unrecognisable as we have more staff than we ever imagined, deliver services which stretch from Selby to Stokesley, Whitby to Wensleydale and have a laptop each. However what hasn’t changed is our commitment to do whatever needs doing to support one of our members; anything and everything from weekly one to one support sessions to helping someone start living independently. I’ll leave you with this message which we received on GCSE results day, ‘Thought I'd drop you a message to let you know how I've got on.. 5 Cs, 2 Btec Passes, and only 2 Ds! Can't thank you enough for all you've done for me, I'll make sure to write a nice letter to Abigail about you all!! Thank you so much Jon, A lot of the motivation and change of heart about my education is down to you showing me that I should've put the graft in so I don't have to in the future, which I did.. You should be equally as proud of yourself as I am for achieving such good results! Absolutely over the moon. X’.
To find out more about this young person and many more, please come to our AGM on November 14th at 6.00pm at The Clock. And if you can’t make it, if you’re shopping in Thirsk’s Tescos, please vote for us!!
On 29th January 2015, I was sat in my portakabin writing a report on some facts and figures collated by staff when one of our supporters popped in with a newspaper cutting. The article was about the Weston Charity Awards and their search for leaders of charities to apply. The purpose of the Award was to help leaders and charities prepare for their future. Our supporter explained that her husband had been reading the article and said to her that ‘this has got Abigail from The Clock written all over it’ so she had brought it in.
I read the guidance which said that 12 winners would be selected based on their willingness to benefit from the Pilotlight process. The process included working with Pilotlight over the course of a year and having access to senior business leaders at a monthly meeting in London. Their offer seemed to match our needs perfectly. The only trouble was that we had just over 24 hours to fill in the application form. I stopped what I was doing and focussed my attention to completing the form. I got to ‘How do you think your charity could benefit from being an award winner?’. Where do I start? I thought. I started typing …
We really need your help. The Clock started in 2002 as a part time pilot project with 2 members of staff. We now have 25 members of staff who deliver 13 services. Our income has increased from £138000 in 2011/12 to a forecasted income of £500000 this year.
We are an ambitious organisation which everyday makes a difference to those who need us and we want to be the best in our field. The success of our previous work means that we are now in high demand by partners to deliver services on their behalf.
Your aims of supporting charities to become more sustainable and to face the future with greater confidence match our needs. Staff regularly collect evaluations from users of services however we feel that with support there is more we could do with the data.
We are an extremely successful organisation. We have seen similar organisations open and close during our lifetime. Our success is as a result of our staffs’ willingness to constantly change and adapt to meet the needs of our users. As an organisation we are open to change in order to protect the future of the organisation.
I completed the rest of the form and sent it off. Over several months we were notified that we had been short listed, interviewed, told we were a winner and invited to the launch. Then the exciting bit came – we received an email telling us who our business leaders/mentors were. Thanks to google we tracked them down and were in awe of their achievements. My staff put a great deal of effort into preparing for our one site visit; one of our biggest worries was which cars to pick them up in from the station. Our mentors were clearly impressed if not shocked by the amount of services we delivered from our buildings; and speechless by what our members told them about The Clock.
I was really nervous on my first trip to meet them in London. In the time honoured fashion we had to introduce ourselves including memorable about ourselves. I remember being impressed about the unique thing they shared about themselves. I tried to get out of it by saying ‘I didn’t really have anything that wasn’t crazy’ and one of them saying ‘ tell us something crazy; it’s supposed to be an ice breaker’. So I told them about when I forgot to take the music to the end of term show so had to sing ‘I predict a riot’ acapella so that the students could perform a dance to their parents. It did the trick; the ice was broken.
12 months on we have completed the process; The Clock has a new, usable business plan and completely revised the governance of the charity. This week I attended the Awards ceremony at Fortnum and Masons and was shocked and thrilled when they announced The Clock was one of two overall winners.
So we feel it is timely to share with you stories from The Clock as they happen. Welcome to our blog.
Until next time...
St James Green