There’s a long standing tradition of volunteering being tied to running a setting such as a Cylch Meithrin, with supporters of the language coming together to ensure a Welsh-medium service for the children in their society. It wouldn’t be going too far to say that if it wasn’t for the energy, resilience and vision of thousands of individuals across Wales over the years that Cylchoedd Meithrin would not have been able to exist.
As with all aspects of society, there are good and bad. The vast majority of people act honestly, transparently and openly. However, it must be accepted that Cylchoedd Meithrin aren’t isolated from every ill, and procedures and systems must be in place to secure the future of the Cylch. This is where it’s essential for Mudiad Meithrin – as the national voluntary umbrella body – to step in to offer leadership and advice on every aspect of the Cylch’s activities. One important element of this is finance, which is the topic of this blog.
All too often, the cause of any trouble (note here that those Cylchoedd who experience fraud or financial theft are exceptions) is partly down to a failure to adhere to good financial practices (although, it’s naturally the instinct or need of the individual which drives the intent to steal or commit fraud in the first place).
While Mudiad Meithrin’s management guide for Cylchoedd Meithrin, the support of a specific Support Officer, as well as training sessions and financial surgeries are already in place, Mudiad Meithrin have published a new series under the banner ‘Little Purple Book’ (a series of advice booklets) with the first concentrating on financial matters.
Here’s a flavour of some good practice advice for Treasurers and for members of the Voluntary Management Committee (note that only a small selection are found below):
- Make sure that you are familiar with your Constitution. If you are not aware of its existence, seek advice from your Support Officer. A standard Constitution can be found on Mudiad Meithrin’s intranet which can be amended and adopted by the Voluntary Management Committee;
- Prepare an annual budget based on a projection of income and expenditure by calling on information from your Support Officer who will be able to provide you with business plans as well as advise you about CSSIW’s statutory staff to children ratios. Ensure that you have money aside (equivalent to 3 months running costs), and keep this in a separate account if possible;
- Don’t miss out on sources of easy-to-apply grants such as Mudiad Meithrin Grants, the Big Lottery Fund (formerly Camelot) and the ‘Hanfod Cymru’ Grants. Also, find out about Grants which are offered by your Local Authority;
- Make fundraising a day to day activity by considering setting-up a 100 Club and aim to arrange a fundraising event every term. Lots of ideas and advice are shared on Mudiad Meithrin’s Facebook and Twitter Pages (facebook.com/MudiadMeithrin and @Mudiad Meithrin);
- Draw on the generosity of others in the community. Are there others who would be prepared to provide resources or a free service such as fruit for the children, arts and crafts supplies, Welsh books, items for messy play etc.?
- Don’t pre-sign blank cheques or allow Cylch Meithrin staff to sign cheques. Bank any cash promptly, and although it’s possible, avoid allowing parents to pay through a Standing Order, or even avoid on-line banking altogether (as this centres too much financial power on one person);
- Don’t let staffing matters and paying staff get the better of you! Employ a company (an accountant, voluntary organisation or local payroll) to prepare professional pay slips and to make pension arrangements for staff. Companies such as this often offer services for a relatively low cost which means you don’t have to worry about the accuracy of paying tax, National Insurance etc. All of this information is also available on the intranet.
- Claim a National Insurance refund. Depending on your turnover, it’s possible for the Cylch Meithrin to get a refund on the staff salary National Insurance bill.
- Consider joining a tax credit scheme and prepare to provide 30 hours of childcare / Early Years Education for your local area. The Voluntary Management Committee should be discussing – together with the Mudiad Meithrin Support Officer and County Council staff – and identifying the necessary action to take.
- Consider employing one person as Business Officer to co-ordinate the above elements. What could a person employed for two days a month achieve from the list above? Cylchoedd Meithrin should consider paying for additional professional support as some already do.
Every aspect of the Cylch Meithrin’s operation, including the financial elements, are the responsibility of the Voluntary Management Committee and Registered Persons. It’s a big responsibility. Most of the time there isn’t a cause for concern, but it’s important to have your eyes open to what could be at stake when a service as important as a Cylch Meithrin is run voluntarily. The Insurance package supplied though Mudiad Meithrin as part of the registration fee offers a range of insurances to Cylchoedd Meithrin but, at present, there isn’t an insurance to protect against fraud or theft by a member of staff / member of the Voluntary Management Committee.
I’ll end where I began. If it wasn’t for the voluntary actions of thousands of individuals over the last five decades and more, no Cylchoedd Meithrin would exist. Every person who shares a vision of Wales where Welsh is restored to its rightful place – and ensure a million Welsh speakers by 2050 – should understand that a Cylch Meithrin isn’t run on child’s play alone.