Funding is a real issue at the moment for charities. It has always been a challenge to raise money in order to support charitable aims and objectives, yet the current economic climate is making it even more problematic.
My philosophy at The Children's Sleep Charity has always been that we should try to generate a large proportion of our own income, and not become over reliant on donations and grants. This is achieved through offering our training services to the NHS, education departments, Clinical Commissioning Groups and corporate organisations.
Recently I gave a talk at a large conference about the importance of sleep to support child development. As always our information stand generated a huge amount of interest from voluntary sector staff who are keen to learn more about sleep. Many charities are now frontline in providing family support services in localities. The comment however that was made over and over, was that there was no budget for training staff. This is common place at the moment, not only in charities but also across public services. We have seen many dedicated healthcare professionals who have self-funded their own sleep practitioner training in order to better support the families that they work with. A sad state of affairs in terms of supporting staff development but it truly shows the dedication of many NHS staff and the tough economic times that we are experiencing.
The charity have recently developed a partnership with a leading telecommunications company - all will be revealed in the New Year! When discussing how they could help to support us to reach more families, I suggested that they could explore funding 10 staff each year from small charities to enable them to train as accredited sleep practitioners. This would provide and promote the embedding of free sleep support for families at community level. I am delighted to say that our partners wholeheartedly agreed.
This month we will begin to recruit these 10 practitioners, all of whom have to go through an application process to ensure that they have the necessary skills to support families effectively. I know how much this opportunity will mean to smaller charities who wouldn't ordinarily be able to afford to pay for training but do such incredible work that can now be recognised and supported
The funding will also ensure that families can access sleep support in their localities from practitioners that they already have a relationship with. Sharing the information that your child has a sleep issue can leave you feeling extremely vulnerable. Many parents share with us that they have felt that their parenting skills have been judged by professionals previously when they have spoken about sleep issues. A key part of the work that we do is to empathise with families to demonstrate a non-judgemental approach where families can seek support in a positive manner.
Often families will share the guilt they feel about their child's sleep issues. It is not uncommon to hear phrases like "I've brought it all on myself" or "I've made a rod for my own back". I have also been there as a parent and understand how hard it can be to ask for help with sleep issues. I always ask families, "Did you always do the best thing that you could do at that moment in time for your child?" and the answer so far has always been a resounding "yes". What more can we ask than a parent doing their best? Our role is to provide them with the sleep information to help them to understand why the issues may occur and to offer them a choice of strategies that fit in with their parenting style.
For more details about the scheme visit www.thechildrenssleepcharity.org.uk