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An update from our Interim CEO 

As COVID-19 restrictions are soon planned to ease in the UK, I’m sure that many people will be eager to know what this means for Challengers over the coming weeks and months.

We will continue to follow the government’s recommended guidelines for our setting (as we have done throughout the pandemic) in order to keep children and staff safe, so provided the government roadmap progresses as planned, we will soon be able to increase capacity at our Play and Youth schemes, relax additional measures such as staff wearing PPE, and re-gain access to facilities like soft play. We are also looking at plans to support a hybrid office and home working model for our Head Office staff.

There have been some significant changes to Challengers over the course of the pandemic, and returning to ‘business as usual’ has been financially challenging. We have seen recent changes to our Local Authority funding and a reduction in voluntary income from our planned forecast pre-COVID, which means that parts of our service will look a little different going forward.  

The actual cost to the charity to run a Play or Youth scheme is £180 per child per day. We use Local Authority funding and our own fundraising income to subsidise schemes, so that parents only need to pay a small contribution towards the overall cost. We do this so that the cost of attending is not a barrier to families, as we believe that parents shouldn’t have to any pay more for their disabled child to access Challengers than they would pay for a non-disabled child to access a similar ‘mainstream’ service. 

While we have been successful in receiving a large proportion of the funding available from Local Authorities this year to help fund Challengers schemes, we have received less money from both Hampshire County Council and Surrey County Council than in previous years due to the short breaks funding budgets being reduced. This sadly means that our After School Clubs are no longer financially viable, and some Challengers schemes in Surrey and Hampshire which previously ran weekly will now only run fortnightly or monthly. This means that there will be fewer sessions available for families to book overall. Delivery for our London Borough and West Sussex schemes will not be affected. 

Another key change is that we will prioritise bookings for children and young people that live in the same county that a scheme is located in – this is in order to meet our Local Authority quotas. For example – children who live in Surrey will be prioritised for places at our Surrey schemes. This is the same for Hampshire and West Sussex, and in the borough for Kingston and Richmond. The only exception to this is our Farnham schemes, as these are funded by both Hampshire and Surrey Councils, therefore children living in both of these counties will be prioritised to attend.  By prioritising those who meet our funding criteria, we can help to prevent any future loss of Local Authority funding.

I want to reassure you that we are working hard to find options for reducing our costs in order to fund more places at Challengers schemes, as well as continuing to look for opportunities to provide more of a service for everyone. Of course, our wonderful fundraising team will also continue to fundraise as much as they can to help fund additional places. 

Despite these reductions, we still expect to be able to deliver close to 50,000 service hours this year which will make a big difference to disabled children and their families. We will still continue to run our free virtual youth sessions, and we are looking into other ways in which we can offer families additional support. 

To all of our wonderful supporters – I’d like to thank you for your continued understanding and your amazing support of the charity – whether it be through donations, taking on a fundraising challenge, attending our events, or spreading the word about Challengers online and in your community. Your support means so much to us and keeps us strong, especially during these difficult times. 

Louise Clarke, 
Interim CEO of Challengers