Pamela McConnell, Founder of Five Rivers Child Care, discusses why being a social enterprise is so important to the organisation and how this translates into tangible support for children in its care.
When I first set out to start Five Rivers Child Care, a social enterprise wasn’t a legal structure, so I was the sole trader for 12 years until 2001 which meant financially and reputationally, I carried all the responsibility. However, we’ve always invested in additional services, even at the beginning, because we put the children at the centre of everything we do, and we want to give them the best opportunities.
As a social enterprise we are committed to reinvesting 51% of any surplus back into children’s services each year, which is written into our memorandum. We are also a Certified Social Enterprise UK Member.
One of the reasons why I decided to make Five Rivers a social enterprise and not a charity is because a charity has to rely on donations. For me, that wasn’t the answer to providing the long-term resources that are needed to help children that have experienced trauma. It’s far better to find lasting solutions and not just focusing on immediate band aid solutions for a child.
Our ATIC Model (Attachment and Trauma Informed Care) developed by our team of clinicians, residential and education practitioners, provides the foundation for all our therapeutic care. This integrated approach is what makes Five Rivers Child Care unique and provides support not only to the child, but also to the adults that support them.
One of our core reinvestments is research, which assesses the effectiveness of the work that we do. We work independently with leading universities on our studies and have published a number of research papers. This work is vital to providing evidence-based practice models of therapy and care.
We also reinvest in high quality training above and beyond the regulation standards. We’re committed to developing our workforce and foster carers to give them the knowledge and skills so that they can better support our children.
We recognise the importance of providing emotional and financial support to care leavers and do so through our programme, Five Rivers Futures. Another programme that we invest in is our Youth Council, made up of children in care from across the country, care leavers, and Five Rivers Board members. We hear about the issues that are important to them and plan for how to communicate to foster carers, friends, family, and the outside world.
The way that the world views and talks about children in care is something we’re very passionate about changing. Last year we launched our Fans of Fostering scheme, which encourages others to think well of children in care. We do this by communicating positive news, sector updates and highlighting opportunities to support children in care.
All of our employees and suppliers are asked to sign our Five Rivers social compact which asks them to take the opportunity to promote a better understanding of children in care and consider offering meaningful work placements to people from our ‘looked after’ population. We also ask that they care for their communities, the environment and buy from local, independent retailers wherever possible.
Raising awareness of the challenges that children in care face during their lifetime and putting the appropriate pressure on everyone to do better, work faster and achieve more for our children, are the things that I hope will be my legacy. These are the things that are the hardest to achieve but are the most important for providing better outcomes for children in care.