"As I start a stint of ten days leave following the first few months of the year it feels an appropriate time to share another CEO blog. We have all had a challenging two years with Covid and I was looking forward to the post Covid year of 2022. However the year started in a way we hadn’t expected with the sudden death of my father-in-law, quick but peaceful. Just as we started to work through our grief my mother-in-law became seriously ill and was rushed into hospital for emergency surgery. Following a few weeks in ICU she has recently returned to her home. Using You Tube videos to teach myself medical procedures of how to best care for her became a new reality for me. I share this not for sympathy but as a reminder that what you see on the surface, on social media and the way the world is presented is not always how the world is unfolding and a little reminder to be patient and kind.

"Alongside these personal challenges there have been a range of developments at both Young Gloucestershire and Infobuzz which I am proud to share. There are many highlights of the last four months for YG, but I will share just a couple:

  • Emma Blakelock (nee Davies) joined the organisation as an Operations Manager. Emma joins with a wealth of knowledge and experience bringing with her 31 years of working in the police. I am really looking forward to seeing what improvements this role can make to the charity (and no longer having to be involved in managing direct delivery, as we are now back to a full operations management team).
  • Over Covid we have seen a significant increase in YG mental health services and we continue to develop and grow these, with the launch of a Link Chat+ service (a face-to-face youth work led mental health service) based in Cheltenham.
  • The successful launch of the Gloucester Mentoring Programme a partnership of organisations across the county supporting young women at risk of involvement in the criminal justice system.
  • We continue to grow our staff team with a wide mix of knowledge, experience and qualifications. We continue to be proud of the lived experience we see spread across our teams.

"The success we have seen also comes with challenges, there is always two sides to the coin:

  • We saw the highest levels of staff sickness we have ever seen as Covid hit the organisation.
  • We have identified the need to train and upskill our staff to build their capacity to respond to the growth of our organisation and to make up for some of the time lost during the Covid pandemic. I am sure many of my colleagues will share the challenge of getting the job done and hitting targets whilst making sure everyone has the training and knowledge to do the roles they are doing.
  • We continue to explore the best ways to ensure the mental health of our staff is supported as they address challenges in our communities.
  • There is an ongoing challenge of re-securing or finding new sources of funding to ensure the work we are doing can continue as the majority of our teams are on short term 12 month contracts.

"Alongside tackling the ongoing training and development needs we have some new plans for the next four months:

  • We are looking forward to launching a new base for delivering services in Tewkesbury and to get the YG hub in Gloucester open.
  • We are continuing to test, learn and implement alternative mental health and mentoring programmes to tackle the changing needs of young people,
  • and we will be running a series of jubilee celebrations over the year.

"Alongside YG I am also CEO of Infobuzz. Infobuzz in the last three years has gone from strength to strength and our post Covid strategy is more ambitious with a desire to support more children and families across the county. As often is the case this meant a restructure in 2021 and a difficult decision to stop delivering services that no longer felt right for Infobuzz. As a small organisation turning over around £500,000 it was a brave decision of the trustees to give up a £200,000 contract. The last couple of months have proved this was the right decision as we have seen two new significant pieces of work develop that are core to our strategy and we are excited to launch some new programmes, that will have a real impact on children and families lives in our county. These programmes will meet some significant needs in the county that are currently not being addressed. I will share more on an Infobuzz blog soon.

"Other highlights include the privilege I have felt to develop some new stronger relationships with CEO’s from other local voluntary organisations, giving me the opportunity to learn and develop others whilst learning myself, the true benefit of relationships. Alongside this I am proud to be supporting the Community Foundation as Vice Chair, as it implements its strategy and continues to commit to mentoring leaders in the sector and deliver more funding than it has before, enabling opportunities in the community.

"So here is to the next four months of the year, I am sure it will be an emotional roller coaster, one of successes and failure, one of personal growth and development and hopefully enabling the development of others. Exploring what can be achieved for the County of Gloucestershire. Working out how to balance work, home, study and getting a little me time. None of us are perfect but here at Young Gloucestershire and Infobuzz we are doing our best and as my mum always says, you can only do your best."