Mixed blessings

My free local papers have, over the late summer, been full of
bright-eyed teens picking up their GCSE and A-level results.
Staring out are beaming faces with fingers in the air to show how
many A* passes they achieved. I always scan the background of such
pictures to see if any casualties of results day have strayed into
shot – head in hands or in tears on the mobile phone. One side of
results day is always cropped or airbrushed out of the frame.

Although not quite as life-defining as A-level grades, all
Children’s Fund programmes across England recently received
their financial results detailing how much money they would have to
spend between 2005-8.

I knew pretty much what was coming but was holding onto the hope
that it may surpass my reality-checked expectations. Like my own
A-level results many years ago, the writing was on the wall before
the big day – but until it was in black and white I refused to
recognise it. (No, I was not photographed for the local

My first emotion when the allocation letter arrived was surprise
– not at the content but at the fact it arrived when we were told
it would do. Government timescales have been so elastic that when
the news dropped so quietly and on time into my e-mail inbox, I
nearly missed it. Our allocation is a reduction but, on balance,
good news. It brings stability and shows a genuine commitment to
this sort of children’s work. I suspect others up and down
the country are also happy-ish because the national e-mail network
that is the super-highway for airing dismay is quiet.

Our allocation is enough to allow us to make a three-year
commitment to our priority initiatives and to maintain some of the
momentum that is still building. There are still some uncertainties
about timings and flexibilities, but I guess we are now “in
clearing” – not totally sure about where we will end up but pretty
confident it will be on the sort of course we hoped for.

Locally, everyone wants to know straight away what the figures
will mean for them? People are frustrated that I can’t offer
quick answers as the interpretation, review and negotiations will
take at least a couple of months before we get to final agreements
and financial allocations for the next couple of years.

For a moment I am distracted from the decisions ahead by
reconciling feelings about those that run the Children’s Fund
nationally. I have felt disappointed and disillusioned by them in
the past 12 months, but today have to give them credit for
delivering what they said they would, when they said they would.
Now the pressure is on us to deliver. Such thoughts make me smile
grudgingly and grimace simultaneously – I am glad the local press
are not on hand to capture this, I dread to think what results day
headline would accompany such a face. Cheers.

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