Educate teenage parents
Rosie Payne was introduced to me by the Charity Bank; they wanted me to see one of their most exciting investments of recent years. Rosie Payne runs the Young People’s Project, a centre which helps teenage parents turn their lives around. The Project makes it possible for young parents, who often have not succeeded at school, to get an accredited education. They can put their children in the on-site crèche while they focus on all-important qualifications. Community midwives and careers advisors also work out of the YPP centre, making access to support as easy as possible. Volunteers do outreach work on the streets as well: “It’s all about engagement with young people who are not adhering to the mainstream”, Rosie explains.
I met Rosie at the centre in Ilford. A modern block where every inch of space is being used. Walls have been erected to create classrooms, offices and consultation rooms. We met on a day when there were no classes otherwise, Rosie tells me, there would have been no space to sit in.
A service like this makes such perfect sense that you would expect to find centres like Rosie’s all over the country; especially, as teenage pregnancy is rising in many areas. YPP is one of a rare breed however, and it only exists thanks to Rosie’s tenacity, passion and hard work.
Rosie was made redundant, back in the early 1990s, from her role as a professional youth and community worker. A friend asked her to help out at a toddler group on Monday mornings for young mums who had recently left care. Soon after, Rosie took over running the group herself. The young people were asking questions like: “What do I do if I’m having a bad day on a Tuesday?” and “How do I get to college?” Rosie wanted to help and managed to secure some funding which allowed her to move into central Ilford and run the group two days a week; the Project grew from there. They became a constituted organisation in 2000 and in 2005, thanks to a loan from the Charity Bank, they purchased their own premises. The Charity Bank loan meant that they could now run five days a week and are in touch with several hundred young people.
Another really valuable aspect of the Young People’s Project is their involvement in sexual education in schools. A group of young parent volunteers at the centre run the Respect Programme. I met some of the enthusiastic team and feel quite sure that they would be more convincing than the teacher with fuzzy felt who taught me about the birds and the bees at school!
Many of the young people who come to the centre looking for support, become volunteers and even employed by the project. This all helps build their skills and confidence. Rosie says that loyalty is high: “People come to me if they’ve been volunteering and say, “I’m really sorry. I’ve got another job and I don’t want to let you down”, but I really want the best for them and it’s about moving on.”
There are many reasons why teenagers get pregnant, but according to Rosie deprivation, poor sex education and media pressure are some of the key causes: “According to statistics, if you don’t have anyone who believes in you when you’re ten, then you’re much more likely to have a baby as a teenager. A lot of young people don’t have anyone around them to support them and they haven’t found school to be a place that they could develop in. They’re hard to reach, but they’re the ones who I’m trying to help.”
Seeing lives turned around makes it all worthwhile for Rosie: “Working with young people is fantastic” she tells me, even though she tempers that with, “it’s working with organisations and structures that’s challenging”. A sentiment shared by many social entrepreneurs who I’ve talked to.
After our interview I chat to some of the teenage mums who are around the centre. They are full of enthusiasm for the project and seem confident and happy. Rosie has clearly created an environment where these young people can grow and I leave with a feeling that these particular teenagers are very lucky to have found her.
Become a social banker
Malcolm Hayday is an unusual kind of banker: One who is not out to make big profits, but whose main aim is to help charities succeed. He is the Founder and CEO of the Charity Bank, the UK’s only not-for-profit bank. The bank lends money to other charitable organisations who otherwise find credit hard to come by. I met Malcolm at one such charity in East London, called the Young People’s Project. It is an education centre for teenage parents and the Charity Bank lent them the money to buy their new premises in Ilford a few years ago.
Malcolm’s appearances would not set him aside from others in the banking profession. Wearing the uniform pin-stripped suit which betrays his 20 years of international banking experience, he looked a bit out of place in this run down East London borough. In the early nineties, Malcolm was “a casualty of the last recession”, and found himself looking for work. He told me he wanted a change of direction, “If I’m honest, I never felt totally comfortable in the City. There was always the feeling that there was another way of doing this, that would somehow make it easier to sleep at night.”
Malcolm took a position at the Charities Aid Foundation, CAF, to research the potential of making loans to the charitable sector. It was 1993 and he found charities needed capital, but were against the idea of borrowing money. At the same time, banks were unconvinced that charities were credit worthy. So, Malcolm started a private loan fund with donations by CAF’s trustees who agreed to take the burden of the risk on initial loans: “To everyone’s amazement we lent the money and got it back.” The Charity Bank grew out of this initial pilot project.
By the late 1990s Malcolm had a team of 6 people working with him and they decided to scale things up. They wanted to become a bank but it was a “tortuous road” to get there. The Financial Services Authority, the Charities Commission and the Inland Revenue were all very nervous about the concept of a not-for-profit bank. Nevertheless, on Valentines Day 2002, the call came to say that they had authorisation. Malcolm and his team had six weeks to start operating: “They weren’t waiting to shoot us down, but they were waiting for us to fall over. Each year that goes by, people believe in us more.”
The Bank is now based in Tonbridge with 34 full time employees. They have a balance sheet of £50 million pounds, £30 million of which is lent out and £12 million of which is “waiting to go”. Their loans are made very carefully and sometimes the best advice that the bank can give to charities is to go elsewhere. Surprisingly, Malcolm comments that, “In many ways the most satisfying part of the job is getting a thank you note from those who we turn down.”
Malcolm clearly gets great satisfaction from what he does and admits that many weekends and evenings are taken up by his work. As well as running the bank, he spends lots of time building links with similar banks overseas and with universities and colleges who will produce the social bankers of the future. “You can’t do this half-heartedly. You’ve got to completely commit yourself. You have to recognise that it’s going to demand everything.”
The Charity Bank is unique because it invests the money from savings accounts solely in charities and not-for-profit organisations. The credit crisis has led to a surge of new depositors: “There’s a desire among part of the population to do things differently or to buy things from somebody who’s doing something differently. You don’t have to go to the big provider who doesn’t actually treat you as an individual.” The credit crunch may also lead to a growth in demand for the Charity Bank’s services from borrowers. As government funding is squeezed, more and more not-for-profits will be strapped for cash. “The big challenge is still getting the bank well enough known. There are still parts of the charitable market that don’t know us well.” Hopefully you blog readers will help out there. Spread the word!