Our Time’s CEO, Dympna Cunnane, shares her memories of joining the charity and its incredible work over the last decade.
Our Time is ten years old and thriving. We have supported thousands of young people and their families over this time. We have lived through a pandemic and come out of it with a greater sense of purpose and motivation. And we continue to reach wider audiences as we raise awareness of parental mental illness. I am proud to lead the charity with the support of a talented and dedicated team.
In 2012, the charity was called The KidsTime Foundation and our CEO was founder, Dr Alan Cooklin. Between 2012 and 2017, the charity was dedicated to consulting with the children and young people, and their parents, to understand the level of need and the existing support. It became clear that the need was great and the available support almost non-existent. The team began developing solutions, with Dr Cooklin meeting families, collecting their stories, recording their voices, and filming many of the sessions and interviews. This unique method was written up in the form of a manual, which new teams could use as a guide to the method and underlying principles. And so the first KidsTime Workshops were established – the majority of which are still running today.
It became obvious that we were only seeing the tip of the iceberg, and needed to create support in schools as that’s where children were. The vision was to enable schools to recognise and support these young people, even if their parents couldn’t or didn’t want to come to a KidsTime Workshop.
I came on board exactly five years ago, in 2017, which began the second major phase of our development. It was clear to me that the model was unique and effective, but we needed to find a way to ensure our survival, financially and in terms of our capacity to grow and become sustainable. I began a process of developing the charity infrastructure, governance, funding and staffing. We had reached a turning point where we understood the problem, and knew how it could be addressed. Now the challenge was how to communicate our message to the different audiences – funders, supporters, clinicians, policymakers and the general public. We have succeeded in meeting many of these challenges: we are on a more sound financial footing, although like most small charities, we live hand to mouth; we have developed our programmes; built our reputation; and expanded our reach. Our schools work is building momentum. And… we were able to adapt during the most unexpected global crisis and come out stronger and more sure of the importance of our work.
We have also found new ways to communicate our message, including a highly acclaimed podcast series, which reached the top 5% of downloads. We were approached by Mindhouse Productions to feature in a documentary on the impact of a parent’s mental illness, with Joe Wicks, which will be broadcast on BBC One soon. We’ve created new resources, including animations, and I am delighted to say we won a silver award in the Charity Film Awards this year.
We are increasing our engagement with policy-influencers by submitting evidence to a number of commissions and inquiries – last year our work was highlighted in a report from a House of Lords committee as an example of best practice. And we were selected to collaborate with the highly respected Pro Bono Economics for upcoming research on the economic cost of poor parental mental health.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work of our wonderfully dedicated team. I also want to acknowledge the support provided by our funders, including individual and corporate donations. Our exceptionally talented trustees have supported the charity in so many different ways throughout the ups and downs of the last five years.
On behalf of our families, I want to thank you all.