14th April 2023
Thrings’ Private Client Executive Dayton Little meets Lynne Fernquest, Chief Executive of Bath Rugby Foundation
Can you tell us a little about Bath Rugby Foundation and its history?
Bath Rugby Foundation exists to change the lives of disadvantaged children and young people in and around Bath. The dark secret of this beautiful city is that 20% of children live in poverty, face fewer opportunities and career prospects and can expect a life expectancy of up to 10 years less than those living in more affluents areas.
In Bath and North East Somerset around 10,000 children and young people fall into this category. We’re proud to work with about 3,000 of them.
We were created in 2003 by Bath Rugby who recognised the levels of inequality and wanted to take action. They have always been community-focussed and formed the Foundation as a way of using sport as a vehicle for social change.
The charity has since become its own independent entity although maintaining strong ties to the club. I was recruited as CEO five years ago to ensure the Foundation continued to grow and succeed in its mission support and empower more young people than ever.
What services do you provide?
We focus on three areas of growth and development: To reignite confidence and self-worth in young people, make sure they develop the skills they need to succeed and finally create independent pathways.
This happens in two ways. Firstly, at our Alternative Learning Hub, based near the Rec, gives 14 to 19-year-olds who struggle with mainstream education a place to feel safe and valued enough to realise their own potential. Secondly, through our Outreach programmes in primary and secondary schools, in community settings throughout the week and at youth clubs during the school holidays. You will find us where children and young people are.
Not everything we do is focused on academic success, we’re all about helping young people to reach their potential, with sport and wellbeing as central pillars. We also work with young people with learning difficulties and disabilities so, while for some their potential is a successful education and career, for others it could be gaining the confidence and the ability to take a bus on their own or grow their social circle.
What are the challenges you face as a local charity?
The challenges we face will often be financial. We expend a lot of energy every year raising money to keep the charity going; the more we can raise, the more children we can help!
We have five revenue pillars: Grant funding; partnerships with primary, secondary schools and Bath College; fundraising events; Bath Rugby matchday raffles and bucket collections; individual and business donations.
It makes no sense for at-risk children to fall through the net. If they were to enter the judicial or benefits system, they’d cost the economy up to £75,000 a year. With our support, and a £5,000 annual investment, we can empower them to build a future and contribute to society.
But presumably the outcomes make it worthwhile?
Very much so, the work we do can be life changing for young people and it’s so rewarding to see them succeed!
A great recent example was when we worked with a young girl a few years ago named Meg after she was excluded from school, despite being very bright. She spent a year with us and worked hard to improve before returning to school, where she earned A*A*A at A-Level, went onto Bath University and will soon be joining Wiltshire Police.
It’s a big year for you with the Foundation’s 20-year anniversary. What have you got planned?
As well as our annual fundraising dinners and a cycling event in Portugal, this year we have launched our ‘Lose the Labels’ campaign, which gives a clear headline about what we do. We’re proud that the youngsters we work with are able to tear off the negative labels society has placed on them and proudly display the positive ones.
We also want the campaign to be an opportunity to harness the collective potential of Bath and we are calling on as many people as possible to donate just £10 a month to support our work. It might not seem like much but if 1,000 people join our campaign it would raise an incredible £120,000 a year.
With that support, just imagine how many young lives we could change!
To find out more, visit www.bathrugbyfoundation.com