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A young person with their hands inside a carved wooden hand print cut into a tree trunk

A message from our CEO Simon

Today we’re celebrating the launch of our 40th BBC Children in Need Appeal and are calling once again on the British public to get together to support children and young people to achieve brilliant things.

I firmly believe that the vast majority of children and young people want nothing more than to be an active part of every community, to be respected and loved and in return to help nurture and develop a world where they can feel safe, achieve their ambitions and make a difference. And in doing so, some may need a little help and support along the way – that’s where BBC Children in Need comes in.

As ever, the BBC Children in Need Appeal is an opportunity for the UK to show its support and belief in children and young people by getting together and raising much needed funds to support fantastic life changing projects right across the UK – an opportunity that the great British public has never shied away from and always responded to. I’m not embarrassed to call it out as an act of kindness and kindness is, well, ‘cool’.

It could be argued that, at the present time, kindness and acts of kindness might just possibly be in short supply. I don’t believe this, even though the world we live in today can often feel uncertain, tense, built on conflict and lacking in compassion – where we all feel the strain but children and young people feel it more keenly. It’s probably fair to say that what we often see around us is not easily described as kind. But scratch the surface and I think you will find something very special, something built on togetherness and genuine and authentic acts of kindness. And children and young people are more often than not, leading the way – despite, on occasions, their own personal challenges. I am delighted that the great British public can come together and through BBC Children in Need, play their part.

The work that BBC Children in Need funds across the UK is needed now more than ever.

On a recent visit to one of the homeless projects supported by funding from BBC Children in Need I met a young person. They’d been in care, sofa surfed and slept rough. This is not uncommon: around half of the children currently in custody in England and Wales have been in care at some point in their lives, and more than half have experienced abuse or neglect.

BBC Children in Need is rightly committed to changing this narrative. For example, as a result of generous fundraising and donations we are able to fund Wayne, a project worker at NightSafe in Blackburn. NightSafe is committed to finding homes for young people who find themselves on the streets or at risk of homelessness.  But Wayne is not satisfied with simply finding a young person a place to stay. He is committed to ensuring the children and young people he supports go on to achieve their ambitions, to regain their self-worth and to be an asset in their community.

It is deeply distressing that a 16 year old can find themselves homeless and on the streets – potential victims of crime and exploitation. Last year’s BBC Three documentary, ‘Stacey Dooley, The Young and Homeless’ for BBC Children in Need highlighted this disturbing reality. However, when we all get together for BBC Children in Need, Wayne knows he is supported by the kindness and brilliance of our fundraisers and donors. He is supported by all of us. We all want Wayne to succeed and we want the young people Wayne supports to succeed too.

It’s no coincidence too that later this year we will see the release of The Personal History of David Copperfield – a film by Armando Iannucci. Adapted from a novel by Charles Dickens living in Victorian Britain more than a century ago, it tells the story of a child living in poverty, experiencing neglect and abuse. Today there are 4.1 million children living in poverty across the UK. Children and young people affected by poverty face challenges accessing basics such as food and hygiene products, barriers to their emotional and physical wellbeing and educational achievement.

The story of David Copperfield will resonate with the experience of many of these children and young people and we’ll be partnering with Armando to bring the Copperfield story to secondary schools this autumn.

Not all interventions need large sums of money. Small grants can make a big difference too. 40% of disabled children in the UK live in poverty and every day so, as part of the BBC Children in Need Emergency Essentials programme funded by the support of the great British public, we are able to provide grants when crisis hits a family and immediate support is needed for the basics – a bed, a uniform, a washing machine or a cooker. Simple things can change outcomes by laying the foundations for ambitious children and young people.

Acts of kindness, whether fundraising or delivering support to children, are undertaken by individuals every day but equally, the power of kindness increases exponentially when we get together and when we come together despite all the challenges we can change things for the better. That’s why, this year we will celebrate the brilliance of children and young people and focus on the difference we can make to young lives when we all come together

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