Newsmaker: Ambitious for his children

Indira Das-Gupta

Martin Narey Chief executive, Barnardo's wants to get the charity 'on the radar' and do more to influence policy.

When new charity chief executives take over, they are expected to arrive with big ideas. Martin Narey, who has just joined Barnardo's, has bigger ideas than most.

"I hope we will come to be seen as the most effective and influential charity working with children," he declares unapologetically.

Narey admits this is an ambitious goal, and adds: "I'm going to be here for some time to achieve it."

Uttered by someone else, this statement might sound like hot air. But Narey speaks with such conviction that it's impossible to doubt him.

He has already hit the headlines for claiming that the use of Asbos against children has become "entirely routine" in some areas. In a series of media interviews last week, Narey argued that their use should be confined to "the small number of children who really need them".

As the former chief executive of the National Offender Management Service, Narey speaks with experience. "I think a lot of people were surprised when I left my old job and came here," he says. "But one of the conclusions I came to is that we lock up far too many people. There are many children in custody who, with better support in the community, would never have needed to be there.

"One thing that excites me about Barnardo's is the work we do in that area. Our support of children leaving care, for example, I see as directly preventing young people from drifting into custody."

Narey is not one to shy away from a challenge - top of his list of priorities is to make his new employer's work better known. "I want Barnardo's known for what it actually does, not what it used to do," he says. "People have great affection for us, but they still talk about orphanages."

However, Narey is not planning on launching another high-profile advertising campaign to achieve this. "We are proud that we spend nearly all our money on children," he says. "We don't spend much on advertising.

"We need to explain what we do, using more personal examples of individuals. I am certain that if I showed men and women on the street the young people we are working with, they would be sympathetic."

The last big media campaign by Barnardo's depicted babies among syringes and cockroaches to illustrate how poverty can stop children from fulfilling their potential. The provocative campaign was met with a public outcry, but Narey defends it. "It shocked people into realising that life for a lot of people in the UK is very harsh," he says.

However, Narey admits the campaign failed to present solutions to the problems it exposed - something he feels happens too often in the sector.

He says: "I would like our future advertising not just to expose a particular problem, but also to demonstrate what Barnardo's is doing to improve the lives of young people.

"In my previous job, I heard a lot more from the sector about what was wrong with my organisation than practical advice on how to put it right. I make an honourable exception of the Children's Society, but NCH, the NSPCC and Barnardo's were not on the radar - Barnardo's should have been, and I want us to be."

Another of Narey's aims is to have a greater influence on government - something he thinks could be achieved through greater collaboration with the other big children's charities.

"I want us to be less reactive," he says. "We need to ensure that we engage much more with government and influence the direction of policy.

"I'm determined that you will see a change in the way we operate in the next couple of years," he adds. And you can tell he means it.

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