Gerri McAndrew, CEO of children’s charity Buttle UK, has been awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list for services to the voluntary sector.
Gerri started her career as a social work practitioner for 20 years in some of London’s tougher inner city boroughs, moving up to Assistant Director of Children’s Services at Tower Hamlets and Camden councils. She took everything she learned from this experience into her role as a leader in the voluntary sector, where she has championed those children who are most vulnerable and experiencing the greatest hardship.
At The Fostering Network she developed the first National Standards for Foster Care and secured agreement from all four UK governments that these standards should define good practice. From here she ensured the standards were being used to create real change in foster care practice rather than sit on a shelf. The Standards are now widely recognised as being a key point in the development of foster care services.
Gerri’s expertise in this area led her to be seconded to the Cabinet Office to advise the Prime Minister’s adoption review in 2001. She has since been an adviser to governments on other issues relevant to children in care. Gerri most recently sat on the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies UK’s Independent Grant Panel to oversee the distribution of the Department for Education’s £13m grant to the voluntary adoption agency sector.
From 1997-2003, Gerri was President of the International Foster Care Organisation, and between 2003 – 2010 she was a Trustee and Chair of the Campaign to End Child Poverty, a coalition concerned with the high level of child poverty in the UK.
Gerri joined Buttle UK as CEO in 2003 and since then has worked to modernise and grow the organisation. Last year, Buttle UK gave over 10,000 grants totaling almost £4m and benefiting nearly 30,000 children and young people.
Also during her time at Buttle UK, Gerri established the Quality Mark for Care Leavers. Over many years, Buttle UK’s grant-giving activity and research brought to light the need for more support for care leavers to go to university. Gerri understood that it was the Higher Education institutions themselves that could create a change for this group and that it was necessary to engage them at all levels, from Vice Chancellor to student services departments. She set about building a coalition of support from across the sector, as well as government, and creating a vehicle to harness this support and turn it into action. The result was the Quality Mark, which launched in 2006. Meanwhile, recommendations from Buttle UK’s research on the issue were included in the 2007 Government White Paper Care Matters: Transforming the lives of young people in care and are now incorporated into legislation.
In 2011 the Quality Mark won the Education and Training category at the Civil Society Charity Awards. In 2015, 114 universities and 85 further education colleges held the Buttle UK Quality Mark.
Gerri’s current focus is the Chances for Children Campaign, an innovation in the way Buttle UK delivers grants, accompanied by its largest fundraising initiative to date, which has already raised nearly £2m of its goal of £10m by 2021.
Buttle UK is a charity dedicated to helping children and young people who are in crisis reach their potential by providing small but targeted and effective interventions.
The charity provided £3.9 million in individual grants to nearly 30,000 children and young people last year, preventing them from falling further into crisis and helping them to transform their lives. They are the largest grant-awarding charity to provide financial support direct to individual children and young people in the UK.
Whether Buttle UK gives a bed to a child who has become used to sleeping on the floor, counselling to a young boy who has fled an abusive home with his mother or a laptop to support a homeless teenager begin their first college course, their direct, efficient and intelligent grants are always focused on the needs of the individual.
Applications for funding are received through a unique network of around 4,000 organisations that are working directly with the young people and families (e.g. local authorities, housing associations and other charities). These organisations ensure we are getting the funds to those that need them most, and through them we can ensure appropriate due diligence on the spend of the funds themselves.
Buttle UK was established in 1953 following the death of Frank Buttle, an East End clergyman, who raised nearly £1m to help launch children out of poverty. Since then, the money has been re-invested and multiplied countless times and ways. As the charity has grown, so has its capacity to make positive change.
You can find out more about Buttle UK and its work by visiting www.buttleuk.org.