Select Committee on Welsh Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-237)



  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 them up?
  (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.

Julie Morgan

  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[7].

  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 the decision—

Julie Morgan

  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 Wales.


  228. We have seen adverts recruiting for staff in Wales.
  (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.

Julie Morgan

  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 over.

  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.

Adam Price

  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 with—and again I express my regrets—the 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 the case?
  (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

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