Marks & Spencer – in touch with local communities through child friendly Leeds

Our ambition to make Leeds a better city to grow up in is driven by the work of our ambassador individuals, partners and organisations – including businesses, charities and the public sector – who have pledged to put children at the heart of everything they do.

We now have over 350 ambassadors working across Leeds to make the city a better place for children and young people to live and we’re always excited to hear about the work they are doing to improve young people’s lives.

In today’s child friendly Leeds blog we hear from Mark Robson, Finance & Operations Manager at M&S Leeds, about Marks & Spencer’s child friendly work in our city…

M&S getting child friendly!

M&S getting child friendly!

“At the beginning of 2014, all M&S stores were tasked with making ‘Plan A’, our social responsibility initiative, more local, to really make a difference to the communities we serve. Around the same time we were approached by child friendly Leeds, a partnership between Leeds City Council and UNICEF, to see if we were able to work in partnership to make Leeds city centre a safe and welcoming place for children and young people.

“Already having an established relationship with the Prince’s Trust, we wanted to continue to build relationships with likeminded organisations that were focused on the development of opportunities for children in the city. As a major retailer in Leeds, and with our long standing heritage in the city, we saw this as a fantastic opportunity to get involved in supporting future generations.

“One year on, we are delighted with the networks that are now in place and the things that we have achieved. Over the past twelve months the team has made some great progress and we now have three ‘child friendly ambassadors’ at our store who proactively speak to our customers and staff about how they can support the initiative. From offering our store as a venue for child friendly Leeds events, to promoting adoption and fostering, they are the store’s dedicated advocates for the scheme.

“We raised £10k for our 2014 Charity of the Year, Martin House Children’s Hospice; held a children’s services engagement event in our staff café; and introduced Nigel Richardson, the head of children’s services at Leeds City Council, to the city’s top 12 retailers. We were also delighted to be able to provide prizes and refreshments to winners at the child friendly Leeds awards in January this year.

“Just recently we have engaged our store colleagues at White Rose, Birstall, Cross Gates, Moortown and Pudsey to encourage them to join in with child friendly Leeds activity, to ensure that we are all having a powerful and positive impact on the city’s young people.

“Going into our second year, we are really excited about working with our new Charity of the Year, ‘The Archway’, which provides support to young people aged 16 to 25 across Leeds with counselling, welfare advice, employment and training and housing support. We were introduced to The Archway through a child friendly Leeds ambassador events, which have been invaluable for making connections.

“Working with child friendly Leeds has given M&S Leeds the opportunity to make a real difference to our wider community and we are excited to see what the next 12 months bring.”

A huge thanks to Mark for writing this blog for us today, and for the fantastic work Marks & Spencer are doing around Leeds!

Over the past three years, 350 ambassadors have signed-up, pledging to improve the lives of young people in our city. If you’re interested in joining the child friendly campaign you can email: childfriendlyleeds@leeds.gov.uk , or visit: www.leeds.gov.uk/childfriendlyleeds for more information.

Are you an ambassador doing fantastic work in Leeds for young people? Are you interested in becoming a child friendly Leeds ambassador? Why not let us know on Twitter @child_leeds, or by leaving a comment below…

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