Corporate social responsibility is a bit of a difficult term. To some people, it means activities like carbon off-setting, or planting trees so that your executives can continue to jet around the world with a clear conscience. In other words, it is something that you do because you feel you must, most likely for the sake of your reputation.
For other people, however, it is much less a publicity exercise, and much more a way of life. Following the 2008 banking crisis and recession, the view has grown in many organisations that businesses that (let’s face it) exist to make money should put something back into society. In some firms, this takes the form of allowing paid time for volunteering, or corporate fundraising through events. In quite a number of firms, well over 100 at the last count, staff have volunteered this year to sleep out as part of Byte Night, in aid of Action for Children.
Byte Night is the UK’s largest mass sleep-out event, and since its inception in 1998 has grown from 30 participants to 1500 last year. This year, for the first time, Six Revolutions will be part of it. On 5 October this year, we too will be sleeping out for the night, whatever the weather, to raise much-needed funds to prevent youth homelessness and to support vital services for disadvantaged children and young people.
Filling a need
Action for Children works via 600 or more projects around the UK. Last year, the charity helped over 300,000 children and young people. It supports families in crisis, providing parenting support, and ways for families to rebuild relationships. It also provides adoption and fostering services for children who cannot continue to live with their families, as well as help for children with disabilities, homeless young people, young carers, and other groups of disadvantaged young people and children. The charity’s mission is to ensure that it can provide help for any child who needs it, by doing what’s right for children, what is needed, and what works.
You might ask why charities like Action for Children are even needed. Surely, in the 150 years since it was founded, we have come far enough to care for our own children? The answer, sadly, is both yes and no. For the vast majority, parents and wider family are more than enough. For others, though, there is a gaping hole. Social services departments in local authorities provide services for the most desperate, with a particular focus on children at risk of harm, including abuse or neglect. But they are overstretched, and more and more families need help. All local authorities can provide is, at best, a safety net. It is certainly far from the loving family support that children—and parents—need.
David Cameron was ridiculed for his vision of a ‘Big Society’, but that is effectively what charities like Action for Children provide. On behalf of us all, they fill the gap between what the state offers and what, for the vast majority of children, their families are able to provide. Help from Action for Children is practical, and it works. The charity runs projects that help to keep families together, provide foster carers, run family centres, schools and care homes, and support young people to stay out of trouble and in education.
A community that cares
It is, for many of us, shocking that such a charity needs to exist. Like the existence of food banks, it is upsetting to find out that children and families genuinely need this kind of help in this day and age. But there are 1.5 million neglected children in the UK, and charities like Action for Children do vital work to ensure that they receive the help and support that they need.
In an ideal world, these charities would not need to exist. In an ideal world, neither would social services departments. But this is not an ideal world. Events like Byte Night do a great job in two main ways. First, they raise vital funds to keep charities like Action for Children going. In the 20 years since it started, Byte Night has raised over £10 million in total. Second, they raise awareness of both the vital work of Action for Children, and also the need for ongoing financial support and volunteer help.
If you are able to help support the work of Action for Children, or Byte Night, either by volunteering in some way, or just by making a donation to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/punirajah , please do.