Charity supporters register 'deep concern' over content archive of youth charity Fixers

The charity will close its doors at the end of the month, with current and ex-members of staff concerned about plans for its digital content bank

Charity and youth campaigners have registered "deep concern" and "profound misgivings" about the future of a large archive of digital content created by the social action youth charity Fixers, which announced its closure in June. 

In an open letter, signatories including a councillor for Witham Town, Chelsey Jay, Dr Pooky Knightsmith of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, and youth and education expert Jessica Taplin, called on parties with stakes in the charity to "preserve [its] work in the future". 

The letter says: "We have profound misgivings that the amazing product of 23,000 young people will be broken up or exploited in ways that did not form part of our original understanding of the relationship with Fixers, or the legal, ethical and safeguarding consents."

The letter continues: "We urge all stakeholders and interested parties to ensure that the Fixers website and YouTube channel remain intact and accessible, and that the legacy of Fixers, its innovation and inspiration, should continue and be secured for the future." 

The charity, which helped young people aged between 16 and 25 reach their potential through positive social action, announced an "orderly wind-down" on 5 June because of insufficient funding, ahead of its closure at the end of this month.

Annual accounts for the year ending 31 March 2018 revealed that Fixers had a deficit of more than £38,000. 

The majority of the charity’s funding came from the National Lottery Community Fund, but its contract was due to end in 2020. 

In a statement released in June, Ralph Bernard, the chair of Fixers, said the organisation had depended heavily on "substantial grants" from trusts, foundations and individuals that were increasingly hard to replace once they ended. 

"In particular, one substantial annual grant is now due to finish this year and, despite relentless and determined attempts to replace it, we have been unable to do so at the levels required to meet our projected and significantly reduced costs," he said. 

Taplin said she was "incredibly disheartened" by the charity’s closure, adding that it was "another huge loss to the youth sector". 

She told Third Sector: "The campaign and content that each ‘Fixer’ created truly gave voice to and empowered young people in a way not found elsewhere. 

"The archive that lottery investment helped to create is the lasting legacy of a genuine youth-led movement that supported thousands of young people to have a voice on everything from the impact of suicide and mental health to bullying, homelessness and what it was like for a young person to be a carer."

Lucy Tatchell, head of news and media at Fixers, told The Hampshire Chronicle in June that the charity was exploring options for passing on its work to other organisations. 

Taplin said her understanding was that the archive of content created by young people for the charity was now "at risk of destruction or [being] farmed off for uses it was not intended for". 

She said: "This would be morally wrong – the content and campaigns contain the hopes, dreams, fears and aspirations of the 23,000 young people that Fixers supported to have a voice.

"One would hope that funders and others understood the importance of the legacy remaining as intended: open source and in one place." 

Campaigner and former Fixers collaborator Devan Witter, who collaborated on an anti-bullying campaign with the charity, told Third Sector that young campaigners did not know what would happen to the resources they had previously contributed to the charity.

"Fixers is saying the content will be shared out between different charities and organisations, but we think the resources should stay together," he told Third Sector. 

He added that the charity had arranged to meet with signatories after the letter was published, but they were still waiting to hear what would happen to the content. "The charity will close at the end of the month, which doesn’t give them much time to put a plan in place," he said. 

The open letter calls on the current board and management of the charity to engage with former staff and funders to agree a path ahead, adding: "Nothing should happen to the Fixers legacy until there is consultation and a broad consensus." 

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