Economic downturn posing a challege to Stoke-based charity Caudwell Children
The downturn in the economy poses a challenge to charities with more people needing their services but many sources of charity income are in decline. Reporter Mary-ann Astle, who is currently in Orlando with the charity Caudwell Children, spoke to chief executive Trudi Beswick to find out how the charity is weathering the economic storm
TODAY, 100 babies will be born with a disability, 27 children will be disabled in an accident and 10 families will find out their son or daughter has cancer.
It's stark statistics like these that drives the team at Stoke-based charity Caudwell Children and in tough economic times the staff are having to work even harder to ensure they have the funds they need to carry out their crucial work.
Trudi Beswick, the charity's chief executive, below, said: "It's very tough out there financially for everyone at the moment – charities included. We're having to work very hard to bring in the money we need and it can be relentless. It used to be that you could shake a charity tin in a high street and collect £100 in a couple of hours – now you'd be lucky to get £10.
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"Everything suffers – a ball that used to raise £2 million for us now raises £1.5 million. We have to put on more balls, more events to bring in the same amount of money.
"But the need is still there from the families so you have to make sure you work harder to raise even more money. "There are one million sick and disabled children in the UK and more than 550,000 are living in poverty.
"Despite how tough it is economically we've doubled the amount of children we helped last year and that's just going to keep growing – everyone knows we just have to find the money somehow."
The charity was founded by billionaire John Caudwell after he became frustrated at the amount of cash that was spent on administration and management.
Caudwell Children was registered in March 2000 to make direct donations to sick and disabled children, originally in the Staffordshire area. In 2004, the charity went nationwide, resulting in a dramatic increase in the number of applications, which now arrive from all parts of the country from as far afield as Aberdeen, Belfast and Southampton.
Mr Caudwell covers the cost of the charity's annual management and administration overheads and he remains Caudwell Children's largest benefactor and sits as chairman of the Board of Trustees.
The charity relies on donations to enable staff to deliver services. As well as funding the annual Destination Dreams trip to Florida – which costs between £250,000 and £300,000 – the charity also provides:
Mobility and sensory equipment;
Access to life-saving surgery and treatments;
Life changing therapy and support programmes for children with brain injuries and their families;
Family support services and short break activities at times of crisis;
Holistic therapies and support programmes for autistic children and their families;
Sports equipment to enable talented athletes to participate in competitive sport;
Support for families in hospital (with the aim of providing vital support in every children's hospital by 2014).
The Destination Dreams programme is now in its fifth year and has grown exponentially since the charity first embarked on a trip to Disney Land, Paris.
Trudi said: "We learnt such a lot from that first trip. There were already charities funding holidays for children and their families but we saw the value in developing a trip that, instead of just paying for a holiday, gave the families a fully-supported break.
"It takes a full 12 months to plan for Orlando and we'll be open for application for Destination Dreams 2013 later this month. It takes an incredible amount of planning and we make sure families have all the medical expertise and care they will need.
"Our volunteers are also a key part of the trip. Often if a family has a child with a serious illness then all the focus is on that child – often at the cost of the siblings. Our volunteers can help take the load off the family – even something as simple as a volunteer pushing a wheelchair so that the poorly child's mum can walk with her other children can be tremendous. They can, for one week, be a 'regular' family.
"It's also fantastic for families to meet other people going through the same difficulties.
"Having a child who's poorly or disabled can be quite isolating but Destination Dreams gives families the chance to mix and people often make friends that last a lifetime."
This week, 22 families are enjoying precious time with their children in Orlando, Florida. Assisted by volunteers, the families are seeing sights including Animal Kingdom, Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios.
Children also get the chance to meet their favourite Disney characters, including Mickey Mouse and Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The families include the Lockers, from Fenton, who have twins with health problems. Seven-year-olds Haydn and Katie are on the trip with mum Sally, dad Lee and siblings, 14-year-old Chloe and 18-year-old Hannah.
Also on the trip is three-year-old cystic fibrosis sufferer Lexi-Jean Thwaits, from Biddulph Moor. She is joined by her mum Tilly and gran Petra.
Tilly, a 26-year-old full time mum and carer, said: "We'd never have been able to do a trip like this ourselves so without the help of Caudwell Children we wouldn't have come to Florida. I try to fund-raise for different causes because of what Lexi-Jean's been through but when I get back I'll definitely be helping out Caudwell Children because I've seen what a difference the charity makes."
So what's the future for Destination Dreams while the economy is still on shaky ground? The charity isn't standing still and Caudwell Children aims to deliver three Destination Dreams trips each year by 2016. Staff are also planning to deliver short breaks in every region of the UK by 2016. To do all this, and more, they will rely on donations.
To help, call the charity on 0845 300 1348. People can also donate at www.justgiving.com/caudwellgiving or text GIVE52 £5 to 70070.