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Barnardo’s: The UK’s population is changing – and so are we

THIS YEAR is a really important year for Barnardo’s as it’s our 150th anniversary.

We are the UK’s oldest and largest national children’s charity, and we’re marking this milestone by looking to the future. We will always remain true to our roots, but the world around us is changing – and so are we.

Society is becoming increasingly complex, and as a result the support we provide to vulnerable children and young people needs to evolve too. We've been thinking this through and what it will mean for how we organise ourselves and the services we offer.

Last week we published our new ten-year strategy which sets how we will continue to transform the lives of millions over the next decade. One key challenge for us though will be how well we are equipped to respond to the increasing diversity of the children and young people that need our support.

Barnardo’s needs to reflect and relate to the communities we work with. Be that having Arabic speakers working in our services for the children of newly arrived Syrian refugees, or reaching out to communities on complex challenges like as female genital mutilation (FGM).

I've seen that charities can often struggle with the issue of diversity. We all know it needs addressing but we find it very difficult to do. But it's an issue that can't be ignored by the third sector as a whole.

Making this change won’t be quick or easy for us either, but it is important and will ensure we continue to meet the changing needs of the children and families we support. How do I see us doing this? Our existing staff are a goldmine of experience and knowledge and we’re determined to keep sharing and learning as an organisation. At the same time, we must continue to actively recruit a diverse range of people to join our team and ensure our staff reflect modern Britain in terms of ethnicity, sexual orientation and disability. Developing and improving our recruitment process is a constant task. We have to work hard to broaden our employment streams, think about how we advertise roles and recruit volunteers. Continuing to monitor and evaluate our current process is vitally important to be able to do this. We must do our best to address unconscious bias too. We are making change happen, and starting at the top!

Becoming more diverse is also about building upon our legacy – putting the needs of children first, going beyond social prejudice to ensure the best outcomes possible for vulnerable children in every community. Barnardo's started its work in 1866, sixty years after the end of the slave trade and was the first children’s charity in England to take in vulnerable black and mixed race children. At the time, some mixed race children were abandoned by their families, while many black children found themselves stranded or destitute after arriving from oversees on their own. Our goal has always been to never turn away a child that needs us, and that remains true today.

As we mark our 150th milestone with the launch of an ambitious new strategy, we are calling on the support of the public to help us deliver it. We need the support of communities around the UK to help us increase our team of volunteers, and to support our work through fundraising.

If you would like to get involved with our work visit: www.believeinme.barnardos.org.uk

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