Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-237)|
TUESDAY 18 DECEMBER 2001
220. You have not got a ball park figure from
the past turnover rates?
(Mr Sparks) I have not got a ball park figure. I am
sure our HR Director could say the average is this, but I have
not got it here.
221. Obviously the vacancies will be in England.
Will there be a relocation package for staff who want to take
(Mr Sparks) Yes, there is a relocation package.
222. This just provides another reason why this
geography led approach is so wrong, because not only are you taking
these reserves and this work out of Wales, you are actually going
to be cherry picking the most dedicated, the most skilled staff
from Wales and transferring them to England.
(Mr Sparks) It depends on whether the staff themselves
decide they want to do that. We are not putting any pressure on
them to move to England and they may decide they neither want
to move nor
223. If the alternative is unemployment that
is pressure enough, is it not?
(Mr Sparks) If that were the alternative but it is
not necessarily always the alternative.
(Mr Nall) That is another reason why we would very
much like to see the work continue in Wales on a sound, secure
footing. I have talked about the kind of reserve levels and the
funding gap that exist and if those hurdles can be overcome then
there would be a secure financial footing for that work to continue.
224. Talking about job appointments, did you
continue to advertise jobs in Wales after you had made this decision
because I have been told that people actually left jobs, had given
in their notice to come to the Children's Society after this decision
had been made and had really been put in a very vulnerable position?
(Mr Sparks) At the meeting I had with staff there
were some staff who had joined the Society immediately prior.
I do not know but I would have to check whether there were people
who joined after the decision had been made.
225. Could you check that and let us know because
my understanding is that there are staff who had given up jobs
and moved to the Children's Society after the decision was made
and then, of course, you were advertising for this Personal Fundraising
Partnership in Wales, and I am sure you have seen that.
(Mr Sparks) Do you want me to speak to that, Chairman?
Julie Morgan: Briefly.
226. Very briefly.
(Mr Sparks) I will do my best to be brief but it is
slightly complex. I talked to our Fund Raising Director and this
is what he said: "We are not recruiting door to door or face
to face and ceased doing so immediately the Wales decision was
made public." On the PFP, which is the independent organisation
that recruits the fund raisers, he said "As far as we and
PFP are aware, only two newspaper adverts appeared with the Children's
Society logo after the announcement." PFP were then asked
to check back on that themselves and they sent us an e.mail today
at a quarter past eleven which reads: "As discussed, the
advert that appeared in the North Wales publication was `lifted'
from a sister newspaper in Liverpool. We have, until now, not
had a procedure in place to monitor and control this (apparently
standard) newspaper practice." In other words, the main newspaper
took the advert and put it into the North Wales publication. "In
future we will be restricting advertisements featuring client
names and logos . . . . ensuring that any advertising falls within
the regions stipulated by yourselves. I am very sorry for this
oversight, and we are in the process of confirming with our advertising
agency that all adverts not placed directly by ourselves are withdrawn."
So their conclusion is there were two adverts that appeared after
227. One on 6 December.
(Mr Sparks) And then there were others which appeared
without their choice because the newspaper group lifted them and
put them in the North Wales newspaper. They have apologised for
that and said they are taking steps to make sure that does not
happen again. They are also clear that we are not asking them
to do any further face to face or door to door fund raising in
228. We have seen adverts recruiting for staff
(Mr Nall) Whilst the work continues there will be
from time to time casual vacancies arising and in order to secure
safe practice it is essential to recruit those staff. One of our
concerns about the time frame for planning transfer is that the
uncertainty will grow and staff will start to leave and not be
replaceable and that will endanger safe practice. It will be safe
practice that will become the driving consideration in terms of
whether we can keep projects open.
229. It does seem that this decision was made
on misinformation and a bias against Welsh children. What do you
think is the best way forward to try and get over this innate
bias that there is against Welsh children? What do you think we,
as Members of Parliament and Members of the National Assembly,
can do to help?
(Mr Sparks) There are two things that we are doing.
One is that we are having meetings with the Task Force to discuss
ways in which we can carry the work forward through to March 2003
so as to have as seamless a handover of that work as possible.
The other thing is that we are also hoping to make ways in which
the fund raising base that we still have in Wales can also be
transferred. We do not know where that will go yet because there
are proposals both for a new charity and there are issues with
the Church in Wales about the Archbishop's Fund. We would certainly
want to ensure, where possible, that those resources are passed
230. What can we do as Members of Parliament?
(Mr Nall) Two things. One is, I would not want the
statement "innate prejudice" to slide by. I have indicated
again and again the financial pressures on the organisation which
led to this decision, there is not an innate prejudice against
children and young people in Wales.
231. Did you not say it was to do with the language?
I thought you mentioned the cost implications of the language.
(Mr Nall) Yes, but that is a factual matter, it is
not a prejudicial matter.
232. Could I press you on this? You were helpful
in your earlier comments pointing out there are regions of England
which are currently subsidised in terms of net income generation
in relation to expenditure. Why is it that projects will be allowed
to continue, say, in North East England whereas in Wales, which
is another deficit region in your terms, we have to see projects
closed? Why are we being treated unfairly in that regard?
(Mr Nall) My apologies to the Chairman for having
to repeat myself, but I explained the trustees needed to maximise
the work with children and young people. The greatest cost of
doing the work by far is in Wales. In maximising the number of
children and young people worked withand again I express
my regretsthe work in Wales, financially, was the work
which was shut.
233. Yes, I understood that from your earlier
contribution, and I have to say I greatly deprecate your tone,
which is entirely unacceptable to me. I understood that from your
earlier comment but perhaps you could explain why it is in relation
to the cost base the number of children within each project or
within Wales as a region is lower in terms of the cost base? You
have referred to the language, are there other issues as well
which explain that?
(Mr Nall) No. I apologise for the confusion created
by my remark about language, and I apologise if you feel the tone
was inappropriate. My concern is to put across, looking across
our work and the sources of fund-raising in England and Wales,
the area of our work which is the most expensive to run in terms
of the voluntary income received and the contribution which has
to be made from the central funds is Wales.
234. Have you done a study on why that is the
case? Is it to do with issues of sparsity of population, for instance?
You are the experts in terms of provision of projects in this
field in various different areas, so I would like to understand
why there is that cost.
(Mr Nall) There may be a wide variety of factors and
you have alluded to some yourself. The relative GDP per capita
in Wales may be an issue.
235. So it is because we are impoverished and
we do not generate enough funds that therefore we are not a target
area for a charity which is meant to be dealing with the disadvantaged.
That is appalling!
(Mr Nall) I am sorry.
(Mr Sparks) I am afraid you are extrapolating from
your own argument to a conclusion which was not the conclusion
the trustees came to. You are asking us what the trustee board
concluded and they concluded it on the information they were given,
but you are extrapolating from that an argument which I do not
recognise as the one taken by the trustee board.
236. I quote from your own submission to this
Committee. "We cannot continue with a situation where the
donations in England continue to subsidise Wales." Your very
premise there is that charity apparently is not about the more
affluent regions helping the more disadvantaged. I am sorry, I
thought that was a textbook definition of charity. Is that not
(Mr Nall) As I have explained, there are a variety
of impoverished regions in England. The trustees seek to work
with the maximum number of children to bring about the maximum
benefit and the maximum number of worked-with children is, I am
afraid, achieved in this instance by closing the work in Wales
or seeking to transfer it.
(Revd Mr Glover) Mr Chairman, could I just say that
I did tell the trustees in October that it was unacceptable to
use the cost of translating into the Welsh language as a reason
for pulling out of Wales.
237. It is indeed. We have almost come to the
end of today, I am sure you will be delighted to know, but before
we do I would like to ask the Reverend Glover, as the only Welsh
representative and once again the only member of the cloth here,
what do you think? What do you feel are the real reasons for the
Children's Society pulling out of Wales?
(Revd Mr Glover) Clearly they had to save money, and
I am repeating myself. The fact that we were told that the majority
of the advocacy projects were up for renewal in March 2002 was
a very cogent argument to put to the trustees because it would
have meant that the Children's Society would not have to break
any contracts. Obviously the argument was used that fund raising
in Wales was not enough to cover the costs.
Chairman: Thank you very much. It has been a
very long session. I apologise for the length of it but I do not
really apologise for the content of it. I do feel sorry for Lady
Toulson because I think she was rather unaware of the kind of
problems that the Society were suffering when she agreed to take
over and I suspect she may have had different ideas if she had
found out what was happening. I think it does behove the trustees
of any organisation like that to find out what is happening with
the organisation before they agree to take decisions of authority.
Finally, nothing I have heard this afternoon has changed my opinion,
or that of my colleagues, I am sure, that the mismanagement of
the Society resulted in what appeared to them to be the easy option
taken to cut Wales off from the activities of the Society and,
more importantly, the children who need those services. I am hoping,
as we all do, that other arrangements can be made to continue
the work of the Children's Society. I do hope that the bodies
that have been asked to do it are not those which are already
financially stretched. We will be making a short report and I
hope that it will be listened to by all parties involved. We may
well want the Charity Commission to look at the case more closely
and we will also be keeping a watching brief on the situation.
Thank you for attending.
7 See page 33. Back