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A New Year’s message from our CEO David Holmes

29 December 2023

I hope the festive season has been an opportunity to press pause and reset after what feels like another challenging year. It’s become a tradition of these New Year messages to look back and reflect as well as look forward to the future.

Navigating uncertainty

I firstly want to say how grateful I am to Family Action colleagues for the energy and dedication they bring to work every day of the year. The past few years have been defined by national and global events with long-lasting, profound impacts. Through austerity, the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis and increasing international conflict, we have all to a certain extent been navigating uncertainty, hardship, and grief.

With an upcoming general election, and the need for a new national vision and strategy for families, in 2024 we’ll be renewing our own Family Action strategy and setting the direction of travel for the next five years, learning from experience and building on our strengths and those of the wider voluntary sector.

Taking action

Family Action is an organisation that doesn’t just talk but is always looking for and finding ways to take practical action, whether that’s by creating new service models to meet emerging needs or the pragmatic, ‘can-do’ way in which we offer support. I’m incredibly proud of the things we’ve achieved collectively this year. Our Toy Appeal delivered toys to over 11,000 families. Our Lincolnshire Behaviour Outreach Support Service was shortlisted for a Children and Young People Now Award. We received our Investing in Volunteers accreditation, which shows our commitment to those who give their time willingly to help others.

When we talk about taking action in our work, we are always talking about ‘doing with’, not ‘doing to’ and this was highlighted in our impact report this year. We want this spirit of collaborative working to come through more clearly in the way we present the work of Family Action, so this principle will guide the work we do over the next few months to create a new website that will help people get to the support they need more effectively.

Representing contemporary family life

We want to make sure we can be a ‘go-to’ resource, providing the right support at the right time for people in need – an organisation that helps people to shape or reshape their futures for themselves. We want to be recognised as an advocate for the power and importance of family in its broadest sense, not in a narrow, stereotypical view of the word. This, too, will shape how we present ourselves through the words and images we choose to stand for us and who we’re here for.

When Family Action was founded over 150 years ago, ’family’ had a fixed and rigid definition. A father was the head of the household, a mother was a wife and children were to be seen and not heard. Attitudes change slowly but they do change. Today, family is something we may be born with, but also something we make; something we can actively choose. At Family Action, we think of family as a ‘doing word’. There’s no ‘right way’ to be a family, it’s relationships that matter, and it’s what we do together and for each other that counts.

An organisation of the scale and scope of Family Action can and should be an important part of mainstreaming and celebrating the variety and diversity of family life in the UK.

Articulating our vision

Family is the key to positive futures, for individuals and communities. When we finalise our new strategy this year, it will highlight the ways in which we’ll work to fulfil our mission of providing practical help and emotional support in times of change, challenge and crisis, at every age and stage of life. Over the coming years we will work not only to represent contemporary family life in the UK, but also to speak up about our vision of a society that understands the importance and power of family – because a society that really understood that power, and the impact of early experience on shaping lives would be a stronger and more humane one.

For over 150 years Family Action has been finding ways to support people through hard times in their lives and with family problems of all kinds. We want to make sure we can continue to be there for as long as we’re needed, and to do that we need to raise our profile and make sure our name is more widely known so that we can generate more income and attract more staff and volunteers. We have a fantastic opportunity to raise awareness of our work and get our name out there through our partnership with Good Housekeeping magazine this year.

As we all return to work, I’d like to take the opportunity to wish colleagues, partners and supporters a happy and successful start to 2024.

David Holmes CBE

Chief Executive of Family Action