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A message from our CEO Simon

When a child or young person needs help to be brilliant, we should be there for them – all of them……


Sara runs Big Brothers Big Sisters Oxfordshire, a fantastic BBC Children in Need-funded project for children and young people on the edge of care or in care. It matches children and young people with an adult who can play a brotherly or sisterly role, in the hope this might create positive connections and experiences, particularly in uncertain times. It gives the child or young person an anchor – a reference point to someone they know and trust. I found it impossible not to be inspired when Sara described the difference such a person can make to a young life – and it’s not simply Sara’s inspiring words, the evidence backs this up too.

Equally one of our corporate partners reminded me how crucial it is to have someone supporting you when you are navigating your way through life – especially when you are young. Many of us have someone we can remember in our formative years, someone who was there for us, someone who we could turn to when we needed help – sometimes these relationships are short term but very often they are enduring and ongoing sources of support. He asked me to imagine a critical moment in my life, when a decision needed to be made, when I was at a crossroads or when I was down and he then asked me to think about who I turned to, who was there for me.

I immediately thought of someone I shall call Janet.  She was a youth worker and I was a volunteer on a project she supported. Without me knowing it, she very sensitively and supportively guided me through a difficult time. It wasn’t until long after that I realised the power of youth work and what Janet had done for me. In an understated way she opened my eyes to a world I never knew existed. She showed me what was possible and gave me the confidence to give it a go. I can track the opportunities I have been given, right up to the very point I am at today here at BBC Children in Need and I can see them leading back to those early interactions with Janet and I am truly grateful that she invested time and energy in me.

Of course, for many young people such support is readily available at home, through family. However it needs to be readily available to every young person who needs it. I have personal knowledge of the difference such support can make. According to a recent report by the Children’s Society, an estimated quarter of a million 10-15 year olds are unhappy with their lives. Half of all looked after children meet the criteria for a possible mental health condition, compared to one in ten who are outside the care system. More must be done.

Many of us have these stories. Support from a trusted adult in a time of need can be transformative but sadly, for a good number of children and young people this source of support is in short supply. Some children and young people simply do not have a Sara or a Janet to turn to.

Sara’s project is thriving thanks to the support of BBC Children in Need, children are benefitting but it cannot keep pace with demand or referrals. With more money she could set up more projects supporting children and young people on the edge of care or living in care, in other parts of the country. The concept is not a difficult one to understand: help and advice to children and young people when they are at their most vulnerable. Its delivery needs careful management and support to ensure everyone is protected which is why BBC Children in Need projects such as the one led by Sara, are vital.

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