What does corporate social responsibility have to do with fostered children?

City square, Leeds

My name is Auli Miles. In May 2013 I started work as a business development officer at Leeds City Council, working within the Child Friendly Leeds team to identify ways that businesses can support the work of fostering and adoption.

I have been given the task of building partnerships with businesses in Leeds to help us recruit and support foster carers. I work with businesses to identify free offers and discounts they can offer foster carers and their children. I also approach businesses for financial sponsorship and benefits-in-kind for events, such as free rooms or advertising. I also persuade businesses to register themselves as foster friendly by promoting foster friendly HR policies, so that staff can take time off to train to become a foster carer and go through the assessment process.

Last November, First Direct Arena hosted a corporate social responsibility event and many local businesses were invited.  Many came, eager to find out what they can do to support our most vulnerable children and young people in the city.  Some came because they want to develop a mutual partnership, and benefit from the Council’s support for their business. They talked about what they can do to support children who are looked after by the council, and listened to Amy Doram from O2 talk about what it means to be a foster friendly employer.

Tom Riordan, the council’s Chief Executive, spoke compellingly about the need for businesses to identify what they can do to be more socially responsible and for the council to identify what we can do for them in return.  He talked of the changing culture within the council and the difficult financial challenges that we face.

Since the event, there has been much interest from many businesses, all keen to become foster friendly, offer discounts, free venues and advertising. Significant partnerships are developing with Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, the arts providers within the city (including Opera North, Northern Ballet and West Yorkshire Playhouse), Land Securities (the management organisation who manages the White Rose Centre and Trinity Leeds), Farnell, Bond Dickinson, the police, the job centres and The University of Leeds.

Early this year, I will be meeting with the arts providers in the city to put together a range of arts engagement projects and opportunities for fostered and adopted children and their families.

I am also planning an awards ceremony for foster carers, and am approaching local businesses for prizes and sponsorship.  British Gas are sponsoring the event and many businesses have already donated prizes for the ceremony. It is vital that we thank the carers who work with some of our most challenging and vulnerable young people.

In June next year, I am holding a BSFA (businesses supporting fostering and adoption) network meeting at Bond Dickinson’s offices. Also I am in the early stages of planning a fundraising event at Left Bank Leeds, for the later on in the year.

We all work in a challenging financial climate but thankfully, many business people in the city recognise the moral imperative of supporting children who are looked after. I am working with them to improve the futures of our young people and to find ways for the Council to be an excellent corporate parent.  These children have been let down early in life, but through my work, I hope they will be able to access opportunities that will mean their futures are bright and full of hope.

If you work for a business in Leeds and are interested in getting involved with us, then please contact me at auli.miles@leeds.gov.uk.

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