Getting Ready for Big School

By the time this e-news lands, Support Staffordshire will have passed a little milestone: our 10th Birthday.

We do have a bit of a bash planned to celebrate, our Anniversary Awards are being held at Alton Towers on April 25th and will celebrate all aspects of what we do as an organisation by celebrating our members and partnerships. So, watch out for news of the nominees, those shortlisted and the winners in due course. However, in advance of all that I’m a little reminiscent and somewhat ‘selfish’ this month.

Those have been ten rather formative years for me too; having interviewed for my current role around the easter holidays in 2014, just after the new entity was birthed. It was something of a homecoming for me after 5 years in Yorkshire; and I was both excited and somewhat apprehensive at the task ahead. I dabbled a bit until starting proper in September 2014 and by January we had merged into the new Support Staffordshire, saying farewell to around 20 staff following a massive restructure, including several senior staff who had steered the CVS ship steadily for decades. Something I often refer to as the shotgun merger, where we tidied up later, it took us 2 more years until 2017 to balance the books financially, something we have managed to broadly sustain ever since. And from there we have steadily grown, merging with South Staffs CVA later that year, and taking on the major functions of the former Rural Community Council a year later. In 2016 we resecured our role as VCSE strategic partner to the county council, lost in 2013; and in 2019 we saw the start of a major new relationship with the NHS, which has developed ever since. In 2020 we were proud to be named NAVCA’s Heart of the Community winner for our work during the Covid-19 pandemic and last year we secured both of our national quality accreditation: LIQA and VCQA. We have also worked hard on ourselves in recent years, securing Thrive at Work accreditation for our staff wellbeing and All Equals Charter recognition for our EDI work.

2024 will see our staff team peak at just under 100 people, with a projected turnover rising above £3M for the first time. We now receive investment from several parts of the NHS; we resecured our county council partnership in 2022 and have sustained a range of investments from most district councils over that period too. We partner with a number of other organisations and in so doing gain investment from all major National Lottery strands, including most recently Arts Council England for OUTSIDE. We also deliver Healthwatch in Staffordshire since 2022. We continue to act as the voice of local rural communities through the ACRE Network. And we have diversified our income through trading in consultancy, training, and advice; whilst being focussed on what we do best – letting go of projects that we are not best placed to lead, and premises which are not our objective to operate.

With my previous career in nature conservation, I am also proud to see Support Staffordshire commit to play its part in Climate Action in the months and years ahead. The sustainability of what we and the wider VCSE sector does, becomes more and more important to me (and my partner) as both of our children born during my tenure at Support Staffordshire grow older. As one of my trustees, a former teacher, has put it, we are now ‘getting ready for big school’. And the years ahead look every bit as challenging as those behind. But before we embark upon the next decade, I would like to thank every member we have worked with, and each partner that has supported and collaborated with us over the last ten years, all the staff and volunteers who have worked here; and all the trustees who have governed us so successfully.

And on a personal level I must name some names, first the 3 staff who have been on the whole journey with me; Deputy Chief Executive, Sandra Payne – who has been my right hand colleague (and often left too), always looking for solutions to problems that I may not have even spotted yet; Jill Norman, who has led our operations in the mysterious North (to me at least, on some occasions), ensuring we always remain a genuinely countywide organisation; Claire Terry, our Membership Officer – a sort of organisational midwife who has brought most of you into membership, mostly painlessly, possibly without you even knowing it! Next, our Chair, Jan Wilson, who has steered the ship steadily for most of those ten years, and it was a rocky ship in those early days; your personal support to me has been invaluable and nuanced (yes, I noticed). Thank you all for the dedication and support over the last ten years.

Last, I would like to make a personal thank you to my partner, Jemma, who has not only become mother to our children int his time, and a steadfast personal support to me; but has probably helped solve quite a lot of Support Staffordshire’s challenges over the ten years she has had to listen to me banging on about them!

Happy Birthday to us!


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