Somerset Life discovers how the children's charity Barnado's is continuing its crucial work

PUBLISHED: 19:25 20 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:06 20 February 2013

Barnardo's Frome shop staff members

Barnardo's Frome shop staff members

Children's charity Barnardo's has come a long way from the old image of orphanages and streetchildren. Somerset Life discovers how this historic organisation is continuing its crucial work.

Somerset Life discovers how the children's charity Barnado's is continuing its crucial work

The last of Barnado's homes closed in the 1970s and today much of its work takes place out in the community. Barnardo's South West now manages more than 60 projects including children's centres, family support services, parenting programmes and extended schools, and even runs services in prisons. It supported more than 14,500 youngsters in 2007-08 from every part of the region. This has soared from just 2,300 in 2002-03 and reflects growing demand for its expertise in helping families affected by poverty, abuse, disability and discrimination. The charity fears that the impact of the economic crisis, including increased unemployment, debt and family stress, could lead to even more referrals in the months ahead.

Anne Goymer is the Acting Director for Barnardos South West, based in the regional office at Fishponds in Bristol. She said: "The growth in demand is a combination of the increasing number of contracts with local authorities and much greater public awareness of what we provide in the 21st century. Far fewer people associate us with children's homes. Instead they realise that we have moved with the times to modernise and adapt.

"Our mission remains the same, to help disadvantaged and vulnerable children to transform their lives, but we go about our work in a different way. We support families in groups or on a one-to-one basis, in Barnardo's projects, children's centres, schools and homes, to encourage them to overcome their challenges and lead productive lives."

Locally, Barnardo's South West is responsible for a sexual exploitation project and community work around Lawrence Weston, Easton and Hartcliffe in Bristol, as well as an advocacy service and young people's support project based in Weston-super-Mare. It also manages play and participation, and play ranger services based in Shepton Mallet, an inclusion service, bereavement counselling and support for disabled children based in Taunton, an early years' service based at its children's centre in Norton Fitzwarren, and a family support project in Midsomer Norton.

The charity also manages shops at Henleaze Road and Fishponds Road in Bristol, Worle High Street, Wells High Street, Station Road in Taunton, and Kingsway Precinct in Frome, which - thanks to the support of loyal volunteers - raise tens of thousands of pounds every year. One of its biggest fundraising events is the Barnardo's Big Toddle, the annual half-mile sponsored walk for under-fives.

Barnardo's recently hit the headlines after it released a shocking poll which revealed more than half of people in the South West believed that children were beginning to behave like animals. This led to the charity advertising on television for the first time to raise debate about the treatment of children in the UK and to show how Britain has become increasingly intolerant of its young people.

Anne said: "Barnardo's believes in the potential in every child and young person, no matter who they are, what they have done or what they have been through. We will support them, encourage them and work to bring out the best in each and every one.

"At a time when we risk demonising an entire generation, and when so many futures seem so uncertain, it's more important than ever that we offer help where it is most needed."

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