Barca-Leeds is both a registered charity and a company limited by guarantee, and was established over 15 years ago (in the midst of the 1990s recession), formed by a group of Bramley residents who wanted to make a difference in their community. As an area of significant deprivation, they could see for themselves the impact high unemployment and low aspirations had on the community.
We started by providing services to children, giving them safe environments and an opportunity to play and develop. But we soon realised that making one intervention, say with a child, whilst worthwhile, was not going to attack the causes of the problems nor was it going to have more than a short term impact. We realised that we could make that child’s life better for longer if we could also intervene to work with parents and address their issues of drug addiction, violence etc. And if children had low aspirations and/or been excluded from school, we could develop something more tailor made to re-engage them and give them some aspiration for themselves and, in turn, their families. We could also help those without work to consider self-employment and prepare them for work.
And so we started to develop a range of holistic services, (a range of health, education and regeneration services) for children, young people and adults in our community, still West and North West Leeds. Some of our specialist services are now delivered city wide.
Not always fashionable, we have stuck to our principles of providing holistic services and this has recently been reaffirmed by our board. In delivering on our vision, we have developed a wide range of activities and specialisms – some of our services have grown significantly and we have become recognised experts. Yet we continue to look for new and innovative ways to develop for our community. We are now at the heart of Community Development in Bramley, as we work alongside a range of other organisations to ensure we co-ordinate, focus and prioritise the limited funds we all have.
During the period 1995 to 2010, our services and income grew by at least 20% in every single year. In 2010, we recognised that the economic downturn would have far reaching effects for the UK economy, for government support of the third sector and for BARCA-Leeds, its staff and clients. We therefore undertook a far reaching review of our strategy and considered every option. We:
- Reaffirmed our vision, mission and values.
- Particularly confirmed that we should remain a locally based community charity, providing holistic services to our community and, where it makes sense, beyond.
- Confirmed that there was still huge and growing needs for our services.
- Determined to continue to grow in the medium term , to provide a much more secure base of wider services for our clients and staff.
- Committed to develop our sources of funding to be much less dependent on government contracts.
- Recognised that we had necessarily under-invested in our support services.
- Reviewed our management structure and recognised that it was not fit for purpose and needed to be restructured to be more streamlined, efficient and cost effective.
- Committed to developing a more self sustaining operating infrastructure, for our risk, operational and HR policies.