CEO Mark Russell's reflection on Covid-19 crisis

It would have been easy for charities to retreat into ‘lockdown mode’ over the last fortnight and be consumed with their own internal crisis management. But I’m proud to say that the sector’s response to this pandemic has been one of openness, generosity and collaboration.  

Speaking up for the sector

The Children’s Society was quick to get out a joint statement with other children’s charities commending the government for the measures it had taken, compelling it to go further and calling on politicians, professionals and communities to work together. Many MPs have since added their voice to ours and along with more and more colleagues across the third sector. You may have also seen The Children’s Society featured in both The Sun and the Sunday Times, outlining the critical role charities are playing for vulnerable people right now. 

The closures of our shops and cancellation of our events has put a huge hole in our finances at a time when the vulnerable children who need us are in great danger. While The Children’s Society is in a robust financial position we are losing £1m a month, and many other charities are struggling and will go under without government intervention. The team and I are tirelessly speaking up for the sector and challenging the government to provide extra support. We are adding our voice to the NCVO #EveryDayCounts campaign.   

Pulling together for a common goal

I met with the ‘Choose Children Coalition’ CEOs (Barnardos, Action for Children, NSPCC and The Children’s Society) to discuss at how we can work together to ensure children are supported in this critical time. I’ve been so heartened by the commissioners of our services and other children’s charities, who have been incredibly responsive and collaborative wanting to work with us on how we innovate and adapt. 

We’re looking at working collaboratively with funders and smaller charity partners, pooling and sharing resource. Our teams are working with hundreds from across the sector on shared online resources, creating best practice toolkits and new partnerships.  It’s truly encouraging to see how the sector is pulling together for a common goal. 

Working with the Government

I am meeting with senior staff in the Department for Education every week and feeding them intelligence about the realities we know young people are facing and what needs to be done. Last week we talked about the increasing risks on vulnerable children. I shared all that TCS is doing and what our teams are telling us about how Covid-19 is impacting disadvantaged children. I continue to press government on support for young carers and those with no recourse to public funds. The Minister asked me to thank all of our amazing staff and volunteers for all you are doing to support vulnerable children at this tough time.   

Adapting our services

It is amazing how much we have done already, shifting rapidly in a new mode. Our teams have been working tirelessly to reconfigure our services and we will continue to innovate and adapt. We have been testing new ways of working including innovative and often digital solutions for a number of years now and the skills and experience have well equipped us to respond in this crisis.

We have already found ways of getting most of our direct work with young people online, on the phone or onto other digital platforms. We are also delivering emergency aid packages to young people on doorsteps. All of the money raised from our vital Emergency Lifeline Appeal will help our front-line staff deliver these vital care packages, provide urgent support and advice, and arrange emergency responses for children in imminent danger that could save their lives. 

Taking action together

At the end of each day I reflect on the myriad ways that our team have been finding to work through the challenges we’re facing and the resilience, commitment and creativity I’ve seen. I am totally inspired by the ways in which our supporters are championing children in their communities from their homes, how you’ve have come up with new ways of playing a part and are getting in touch to say you want to do more.

The Children’s Society has always been a national movement of people taking action together for children and young people, now more than ever. The scale of this challenge is unprecedented and none of us can tackle it alone. I am more confident than ever that we are pulling together for the young people that need us the most. 

Mark Russell

Chief Executive

The Children’s Society