CAFOD’s Strategic Review and its impact

Frank Sudlow (CAFOD volunteer) writes :

Following the announcement of major changes in CAFOD’s organisation, Tom O’Connor, Director for Communities and Supporters, came to visit the Diocese to respond to questions and explain how CAFOD’s management had responded to the concerns expressed following their consultation.


Why change?

Reflecting on Jesus’s washing of the disciples’ feet, Tom asked, “How do we reflect the humanity at the heart of our faith? How do we best serve the communities we are part of in a changing world? How do we ensure we are fully part of and responsive to the needs of our Catholic Community?” In reflecting on these questions, CAFOD’s Directorate first examined the direction of our International work.


International Work and External Factors

Those we serve are facing many more emergencies, and many of these are protracted, particularly as a result of climate change and conflict.  CAFOD needs to be able to respond to these proactively within an unpredictable financial environment.  While there is low inflation in the UK, inflation is very volatile in our partner countries.  Support from the Catholic Community in England and Wales continues to be generous, but over 30% of CAFOD’s income comes from other, less secure, sources and often with strings attached.  Funds from the UK Government, for example, have consistently supported our work since 1997 but the way in which they do so will significantly change in March 2016.  These factors mean that CAFOD has to be able to scale up and scale down its work very quickly.


Relations in England and Wales

CAFOD also needs to bring our International Programmes much closer to our communities and supporters in England and Wales.  We need to develop volunteering into the future and find new ways of volunteering which reflect the lives of our supporters more closely.  CAFOD needs to be much clearer about the roles of employed staff (distinguishing them from volunteering roles) and teams need to be much more integrated.  There is also a need to significantly reduce running costs.


Financial Management

CAFOD cannot expect the same core budget, though at different times funds may be available for specific short term projects.  Grants to Partners overseas need to be protected taking account of inflation in partner countries. With this in mind CAFOD needs to reduce its core running costs and will do so primarily by reducing costs in Romero House, CAFOD’s head office.


Direction of International Programme

CAFOD’s guiding principle is one of Partnership, responding to the requests of Partners and ensuring we do this not only in our development work but also in responding to emergencies and in our campaigning and advocacy work.  For example, we used to be the lead agency for HIV and AIDS across Caritas, this work is now led by partners which is good as it empowers them, leaving us with the responsibility for facilitating exchange between partners.

Faced with increasing emergencies we need to be able to move resources very quickly to where they are needed, identifying areas where we can add expertise and supporting those who are expert elsewhere.  For example, ten days after the Nepal earthquake, CAFOD and its partners were able to reach more than 30,000 people in remote villages in urgent need with food, shelter and hygiene kits.

CAFOD’s long term development programmes aim to reach the poorest communities, ensuring their basic needs are met and challenging the structures that keep them poor.  Being an agency of the Catholic Church provides us with unique opportunities to work with those most marginalised and excluded.  We also need to enable our partners to access and generate their own funds wherever possible thus further empowering them.

CAFOD needs to continue to build alliances with other organisations beyond those we have already, especially with other Catholic Partners.


Changes in CAFOD’s programmes in England and Wales

CAFOD is an agency of the Catholic Church in England and Wales and must be embedded in that community.  The consultation clearly identified that we need local staff, not centralisation.  We need volunteer bases not large regional teams.  We need smart communications, not mass mailings.  In the light of this and from listening to supporters, CAFOD’s Management has agreed that there will be an employed member of staff (Community participation co-ordinator – CPC) identified for each Diocese, based in a local volunteer centre.  Debbie Purfield has been confirmed in this post and will continue to have a base in Princes Risborough.  Administration will be centralised and staff will continue to work as part of a Regional Team to exchange good practice and for support, but there will be no Regional Hub.  The current 37 Regionally located staff will be reduced to 26.5 (whole time equivalent) with a further 6 posts continuing for the next two years as new systems are put in place.  75% of the overall cuts will be made in Head Office.  Offices may be relocated as necessary, but with the appropriate technical support, as indeed we have already in Northampton Diocese.  International and National staff will be expected to support the diocese in line with the diocesan plan, so we should see much more of them in the coming months and years.

CAFOD will be exploring new ways of volunteering to allow different people the opportunity to offer their time and skills in ways which suit them.  The aim will be to increase the participation of parishioners and supporters, of children and of young people.

Those present at the meeting from Corby and Dunstable, Leighton Buzzard and Northampton, all welcomed the news that we would still have a Diocesan base and a member of staff located in the Diocese.  We all agreed that we continue to receive too much “stuff” particularly by mail and that this needs to be more closely targeted to those who need it.  Tom O’Connor reassured the group that this was already being addressed.

We welcomed the fact that the Climate Change Campaign was to have a three year life, though we were already entering year 2, and hoped that we would continue to build partnerships with others in our campaigning and share resources with them, especially our church partners, as we had with the Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History campaigns.

We suggested we explore the opportunity for having volunteer bases in different parts of the Diocese on a part-time basis, possibly one day per week or even per month.  With centralised administration we hoped that there would always be someone at the end of the phone when we called the Diocesan Office, even if they were not physically located there!  They should of course know something about the Diocese and such conversations should be drawn to the attention of our Diocesan staff member.  We were delighted that, as volunteers, we would only have to relate with one member of staff.

We were all glad to see that CAFOD had listened to our concerns during the consultation and taken them on board.  We would like to know how CAFOD plans to increase Parish participation but will do all we can to support this.

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