Children’s Society chief defends decision to pull out of Wales

The chief executive of the Children’s Society has defended
the charity’s decision to withdraw from operating in Wales and scale down its
work in England.

Ian Sparks said the meeting last week in Wales, where he
told staff the charity would finish working there in July 2002, was "very
emotional" and there was "naturally a feeling of shock and

But he made it clear the financial situation confronting his
organisation meant stark choices were faced. Sparks and the trustees had looked
into every alternative, but did not want to balance the books in the short term
only to have to make further cuts in years to come.

The charity estimates it faces a £4m deficit this year,
added to debts of £24m over the last four years.

Sparks, who retires next March, said it was imperative that
achievable fundraising targets were set and essential cuts made now to ensure
his successor had a clean slate to take the charity forward from next Easter.

In addition to the £1.3m savings in Wales, the Society is
cutting £5.1m in England from projects, fundraising and corporate services. The
charity plans to change its focus to a "social justice organisation"
that will lobby government.

"It is vital that we retain our independence if we are
to challenge injustice, which is why voluntary income is so important to
us," Sparks said.

Sparks said the charity could have taken the easier option
of dropping the difficult campaigning issues, but that they "didn’t want
to settle for a middle of the road, safe situation."

"These decisions mark a turning point for the
Children’s Society both in setting finances straight and in moving towards our
vision for the future of the society," he added.

The charity aims to balance the books by March 2003. In
Wales, the society is currently in discussions with local authorities, major
voluntary organisations, ministers and the assembly about how the projects are
to be taken over.

In England it will look to pass funding of projects to other
areas, such as Sure Start.

Do you work in children’s services in Wales? What do you
think of the Children’s Society decision to pull out of Wales, and what will e
the effect of the withdrawal? Have your say by clicking here.

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