As head of one of Scotland’s biggest charities in cash-strapped times, Paul Moore tells Molly Garboden that Quarriers has had to develop new ways to deliver services for children
Two months into his job as chief executive of Scottish charity Quarriers, Paul Moore realises he has a lot on his plate. With a wide remit, including disabled children and adults, as well as homeless young people, every area of Quarriers has been hit by the economic downturn.
“We’ve had an increase of 34,000 in unemployment in Scotland, and that kind of shift leads to all kinds of issues around family stability as well as service provision,” he says. “The situation could easily lead to the break-up of families, which increases issues like youth homelessness.”
Quarriers was founded 130 years ago to home orphaned and destitute children in Scotland. Today, the charity heads more than 100 projects in Scotland for adults and children with a disability, children and families, young people, young people with housing support needs, people with epilepsy and carers.
“The main issue we faced is a growth in need coming alongside a decrease and restriction of budgets,” he says. “Everyone in the voluntary sector is looking at the challenge of the provision of quality services within a shrinking budget.
“In areas that have seen a growth in demand, local authorities are looking to the voluntary sector to provide services. It’s challenging, but also exciting because we’ve had to be more innovative in our thinking around what we do and how we ensure those positive outcomes everyone needs.”
They are making gradual moves into this area with a new contract with South Tyneside to take on all respite care for disabled children within the council. Scotland’s biggest five charities, which includes Quarriers and Action for Children, have also been in meetings with central government to look at how they can spread more awareness about child protection. Moore hopes to continue this kind of activity and says he believes it fits well with David Cameron’s Big Society agenda.
“There’s the debate in Westminster around this concept, and I think it presents an exciting opportunity,” Moore says. “The government’s saying there has to be more activity and involvement from the voluntary sector. We will always base what we do around work with volunteers as well as staff, so encouraging more people to get involved in programmes like ours is definitely not a bad thing from our point of view. I don’t like to think about it just as a way for the government to save money – it’s an opportunity to get involved.”
Moore is also enthusiastic about the government’s agenda on disabled children, including England children’s minister Sarah Teather’s green paper this autumn.
“I’m hopeful that we’re going to see a maintenance of the start that was made through Aiming High for Disabled Children,” he says. “Sitting at the Conservative Party fringe meeting last year, I heard an undertaking that those principles would be maintained. That’s great but, having said that, there was no commitment to actual spending, so I think funding might remain a challenge.”
Moore adds that flexible services for disabled children are a hazy area as well. On the one hand, he says, more targeted services are ideal for service users. On the other, that personalisation comes at a price.
“We’re fairly unique in that we cover both disabled children and adults, so most of our work with personalisation has been within adults,” he says. “There are many positives to the system, but there are also many challenges. We had one disabled adult who went through personalisation and we actually decreased the service going to him. Not only did that save money, it also gave him more independence.
“The challenge with personalisation with adults that I think would be even more pronounced in children’s services is that you do have to have a higher degree of flexibility and provision has to grow to meet growing needs. That’s hard to stay on top of when a child and entire family is involved.”
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