OUR STORY Once upon a time…
We’ve been around for a long time – half a century in fact! During this time we have been working hard to develop into a modern charity that works in line with the current needs of the local communities. Our motto, ‘Improving Lives; Inspiring Change’ has been present since day 1. We’re really proud of our history, and how our story, which grew from one person’s dream, has now positively impacted the lives of multiple generations of children!
In the 1970s, many parents used unregistered ‘back street’ childminders to care for their children while they worked. Research into the level of care on offer and how things could be improved led to the founding of National Children’s Centre (NCC), now known as Yorkshire Children’s Centre. From 1975, NCC worked with local childminders and families to improve the quality of childcare by boosting people’s skills and confidence.
On a cold December morning in 1973 seven researchers got up before dawn and headed to working class areas of Huddersfield, Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and London. They saw hundreds of parents dropping children off at houses on their way to work.
What was going on? Unregistered or “backstreet” childminders were often the easiest and cheapest option for parents who worked long shifts in factories or mills. The researchers watching them were part of a team, headed by Brian Jackson, who were trying to understand more about this world of hidden childcare.
Why were unregistered childminders a problem? Nobody had checked them out. Were children safe with them? And was their home a suitable place for children? Unregistered childcare often meant overcrowded cramped rooms, children staying indoors all day, and not many toys or activities.
Brian Jackson believed in doing research in the open rather than behind university doors. His team published their research, sharing what they had found and the questions it raised. The next step was to find a way to make things better. Huddersfield (Brian’s hometown) seemed the ideal place to start. Hazel Wigmore was appointed Project Action Officer in September 1974. Taking a year off from her job as a special needs teacher, Hazel got stuck into the task of creating a childminding centre with Brian.
On 05th March 1975, we opened our doors to our first home – a converted bus garage. The centre offered lots of services tailored to childcare, including training for registered and unregistered childminders, playgroups for children, home repairs, a bulk-buying scheme for groceries, and a toy library.
Before the centre opened, only 1% of registered childminders received any form of training and support. After just 12 months, 100% of registered childminders in Huddersfield had attended at least one course and so had many unregistered minders. Working with childminders in the 1970s had excellent results. However, it also opened Brian and Hazel’s eyes to so many other important issues, such as:
- The needs of children from Black and Minority Ethnic groups
- The pressures on adults with poor basic literacy skills
- The difficulties of being a single parent
- Young unemployed teenagers needing help to gain skills and experience
Brian Jackson pioneered a welcoming and multi-cultural way of working from day 1. The charity existed to ‘improve the quality of life of all children’, which often meant creating better support or tackling problems with whole communities. This work included:
- Helping newly arrived Hong Kong Chinese families settle and thrive
- Supporting West Indian families to improve their relationship with local schools
- Helping Asian women to improve their English Language Skills
- Supporting parents and childminders with literacy skills
- Developing a preparation for parenthood course for local teens
Working with 6 local switchboards, an on-air radio station was launched to support parents with childcare. Parents would call in with questions and ask experts anything they wanted to about looking after children. The charity also worked alongside the BBC to create a series of 19 programmes called Other People’s Children which contained lots of helpful ideas for childminders.
We created our first playbus in 1977. Over the next fifteen years we had converted nine double-deckers into self-contained play spaces on wheels, with slides, sand pits, climbing frames, painting tables, and craft areas. The playbuses helped us to provide services on the doorstep, help mums learn English whilst their children played safely, and to make fun happen for underprivileged children. The busses were loaded with bouncy castles and lots of toys. By parking up in a deprived area, we could create instant fun and life-long memories for disadvantaged families
The 1980s was a time of huge change in the UK. Over the decade, the charity’s focus shifted from childminding to wider ways to improving the quality of life of children. Mass unemployment had become the most pressing social issue. NCC responded by using government funded schemes to unlock people’s skills and improve the lives of children by strengthening the communities around them. This included:
- Youth Training Schemes for 16–18-year-olds to get hands on work experience
- Community task forces to help adults get back into work
- Absolv – a project helping young people fight solvent abuse habits
- Volunteer projects for unemployed people
- An alternative provision college for young people that had committed crimes.
- A ‘crisis creche’ for children to visit at short notice, for parents dealing with a crisis.
In 1981 BBC1’s Pebble Mill helped us to raise funds for the UK’s first ever specially adapted playbus for disabled children. We raised enough money to adapt two, so gave one away.
After developing our skills on buses, we also turned an old railway carriage into a fully wheelchair accessible creche with its own kitchen, office and toilets.
Brian Jackson collapsed and died aged 50 in Huddersfield on Sunday 03 July 1983. He was taking part in a five-mile run to raise funds for the charity. Brian was the driving force behind the charity and the key to the success of the programmes that had been developed. It is impossible to estimate how many lives had been positively affected by Brian and his passing was felt throughout the community. Today, we continue to work in line with Brian’s key beliefs and work hard to keep his legacy alive and work towards his vision, where every child has the opportunity to a happy and successful future.
Before his passing, Brian had started looking into a new home for the charity. After his passing, the charity was able to secure lease on an almost derelict building that Brian had been considering, and we set about refurbishing it. It was a challenging project, but in just two years, using staff and trainees’ skills, we created an impressive new home for our organisation in the heart of Huddersfield. The Brian Jackson Centre (now Brian Jackson House) opened on 27 April 1988.
As we moved into the 1990s things shifted again. As funding from central and local government that we had used for large-scale community training schemes came to an end, we set about developing new ways to meet local needs. This included:
- Brian Jackson House – a busy building and a local asset
- Furniture Aid – a scheme to redistribute unwanted furniture to local families in need.
- A Community Service scheme helping community sentencing work better for everyone.
- Save-a-life training – CPR Skills to hundreds of people in the community working with children or with heart problems.
- Batley Resource Centre (now Jo Cox House) – a centre providing services to older children.
Through research, the charity understood the huge impact that could be had on children whose parents were going through separation. The charity therefore started to work with CAFCASS (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) to support families that were going through separation and reduce the level of negative impact that children could experience.
In 2012, the charity identified a strong need to provide support to families experiencing domestic abuse. Research showed that the best way to prevent domestic abuse was to ‘break the cycle’. With this in mind, the DAPP (Domestic Abuse Perpetrator Programme), was established. Within the DAPP team there were also Domestic Abuse Workers, who supported the victims of abuse and their families. To date, the DAPP runs three different levels of programmes for perpetrators and employs support workers to work closely with victims of abuse.
The charity shops grew from a programme which was established back in 1979 – Furniture Aid. Furniture Aid originally taught young people how to refurbish unwanted furniture, which was then distributed to local families in need. As the awareness of this programme grew, the charity started to receive more and more donations of furniture and the idea to expand into high-street charity shops grew. Today, the Pass It On Charity Shop can be found in Heckmondwike. It offers great furniture deals to help support the charity fund important projects.
As a lasting tribute to the late Jo Cox MP, YCC renamed its centre in Batley to Jo Cox House, pledging that the building will be a place which supports Jo’s legacy to reduce loneliness in society. Today, the charity building is home to many different tenant organisations, including the Jo Cox Foundation, and several event spaces which are used by local communities providing support and education groups.
In 2019, the Duchess of York made a special visit to YCC’s Brian Jackson House where she met students from Brian Jackson college, service users and spoke with the charity’s service managers about the services on offer.
In an unexpected turn of events, the global pandemic impacted the charity on a huge scale. YCC’s trustees, staff and volunteers responded quickly, adapting services to offer over the phone and electronic alterations to reach existing service users, and new services, such as the telephone befriending partnership working with Age UK, and Community Champions to help reach even more important people in this difficult time and facilitate access to the vaccine.
Despite the pandemic at its peak in 2021, the charity was able to achieve some key turning points that would define the orgnisations strategy op to its 50th anniversary in 2024.
The new leadership team was established and the children and family services team was completely restructured to better provide services to users across all departments in a more collaborative way. This included joint working between Thriving Kirklees, Hopeful Families, Community Connections and Child Contact. YCC also welcomed a new Chair, Ira, to the lead the charity. The future was looking very bright!
As the charity is growing from strength to strength, YCC is now looking at a complete brand re-structure. Thanks to support from the local community and some local partnerships, the charity is now seeking to revamp their services, website, premises and scope. Taking the charity to the next level by 2025. Watch this space…
To be continued…