Charity infrastructure body to close after 81 years amid ‘financial challenges’

Children England, the sector infrastructure body for charities working with children and families, has announced it will close later this year due to financial problems.

The charity body’s trustee board said “the financial challenges of sustaining the charity in the current context have become impossible to juggle any longer”.

The organisation was set up during the Second World War as a collective of charity children’s homes, originally as the National Council of Voluntary Child Care Organisations (NCVCCO) until it changed its name to Children England in 2008.

“The priority in its remaining months will be on sharing its legacy after 81 years as the collective voice of, and support for, the children’s charity sector,” said the organisation.

“No CEO wants to close the organisation they love and feel responsible for, but I am proud of the decisiveness of our Board in knowing when it’s time to call it a day,” said Children England CEO Kathy Evans.

"In the extraordinarily difficult economic circumstances the whole nation is experiencing we know that many other charities, businesses, and public services are facing similar mathematical impossibilities in trying to find ways to juggle the bills, the income and the security that all employers and employees need, just to stay afloat.”

She added: “We know we aren’t the first, nor likely to be the last, purposeful organisation that has had to grasp the necessity of closing this year, despite still believing passionately in the value and importance of what they do.

“Our profound concern about what’s happening to all charities and public services in this pernicious economic context will outlast our ability to continue campaigning about them.”

Children England chair David Holmes added that the board made the decision “while we are still in a position to preserve” the charity’s “very substantial legacy”.

It aims to find “caring new homes within our sector” for its work including its 4in10 child poverty project.

This programme had transferred to Children England in 2015 from Save The Children and "is still sufficiently well-funded to transfer and continue in a new home".

"We look forward to seeing all their brilliant campaigning hereafter," said Children England.

According to the charity register Children England’s income for the year ending March 2022 was £381,770, including a £10,000 government grant and its total spend was £358,950.

Charity leaders’ reaction

Children England trustee Mark Lee, who is also CEO of long-standing member The Together Trust, said: “I have been involved with Children England for nearly 20 years.

"Children England has been a passionate and powerful advocate for the rights and needs of children to be at the centre of policy and political thinking.

“Children England has led campaigns, researched issues and most importantly listened to children and young people to develop credible options and solutions.

“Anyone with an interest in services for children, the legislation and policy designed to support them will deeply regret the closure of Children England - I feel very sad indeed that this is happening”.

NCVO chief executive Sarah Vibert said: “Children England is the latest example of charity trustees taking the difficult decision to close. Unfortunately, they will not be the last.

"This winter is, once again, set to be tough for the voluntary sector and concerns are growing that while many will be able to make it through the season, the services we collectively provide as a sector will need to be significantly reduced or stopped to keep the lights on."

Children England is the latest charity sector infrastructure body to announce it will close, following the closures of the Small Charities Coalition in March last year and the Foundation for Social Improvement (FSI) earlier this year.

“The regrettable closure of Children England, and the Small Charities Coalition and FSI before it, represents a concerning weakening of the fabric supporting civil society to achieve the most for the causes, people and communities we serve,” said a spokesperson for charity sector leaders’ organisation The Civil Society Group.

“We need to ensure that the work of infrastructure bodies is understood and valued. Their role is vital in ensuring a thriving voluntary sector supporting people and communities.”

The spokesperson added: “Charity infrastructure bodies are an essential part of a healthy and effective society.

“They are the catalysts for civil society to achieve its biggest impact, often freeing up crucial frontline resource by convening organisations to share and learn from each other, and ensuring voluntary organisations are armed with the tools and information they need.”

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "Children England have been instrumental in helping to deliver significant reforms and change for the benefit of children.

"At the same time, they have never been afraid to speak truth to power... they will be much missed."

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