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Meet our Partners - Q&A with Judith McNeill

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

This week, we spoke to Judtich McNeill from one of our funders, the KPMG Foundation. She talked about the Foundation's relationship with Juno, shared values and her hopes for children's residential in the future.

Tell us about who you are and what you do

I’m the Chief Executive of the KPMG Foundation - we support organisations that work with care-experienced children and young people, and children in the early years, the under-5s. We’re also looking at the overlap between these two areas, and we’re supported by KPMG, the business.

On a personal level, I’m from the North West and know the Liverpool region relatively well. I was originally a research biochemist but have been in the voluntary sector for most of my career, including 12 years at Comic Relief as the Grants Director. So, I’ve been supporting issues around children and young people for a long time.

Outside of work, I like going for long walks along the river Thames (Crosby beach or along the river Mersey when I’m in Liverpool!), spending time with my daughters, and going to the theatre.

What is your relationship to Juno?

The KPMG Foundation wanted to support improvements for children and young people in care in a strategic way. There are hundreds of organisations doing great work, but we felt that Juno is really trying to do something different and something that has the potential to be more influential beyond its immediate scope.

We were also interested in Juno because it had big ambitions – it’s in the early stages, but the leadership team is very experienced and knows what they’re doing. We had a really high degree of confidence in the people and in their networks and in their sense of place. They really understood the system and how they could start to influence it.

And so, being able to support that initial plan, knowing that it was aiming to develop quite quickly over the next three to five years, felt like a great fit for us.

For me personally, it’s great to have that connection with the region Juno is working in, but also, I find it so exciting that you’re using phrases like “we bring joy” – love and joy are such critical things for children, so it’s gorgeous to feel a part of this in a small way.

How would you describe what Juno is looking to achieve?

I would say it seems like building really high-quality and sustainable relationships is a big focus. First and foremost, the high-quality relationships with children. Putting the love back into the lives of children who lacked a lot of love early on. That came through strongly when we were talking about other, much more technical problems.

The second area of relationships is with the local authorities. Trying to build relationships with commissioners and other key stakeholders about how to utilise financial resources differently.

The third area, which I think is really important, is the relationship with the staff team – the people who will be working with the children every day. It’s so important to think about how to nurture them and value them differently. If you have good, caring, effective people (whether they have prior experience in care or not), you will have more impact on children.

So, for me, what Juno is trying to achieve is improving all those relationships, and constantly working on how they all fit together.

What excites you the most about working with Juno?

What excites me is the passion – it comes across so strongly, and this passion for what you’re doing is a fantastic driver for everything else. But it’s not undirected – it’s a passion with a clear purpose, a sense of what needs to be done and the potential of what could be achieved.

Also, the KPMG Foundation had a long-standing interest in social pedagogy, so the fact that it was at the heart of the model was very exciting for us. It’s a great example of how that approach to working with children and young people can create long-term change.

What about the challenges? What’s going to be hard for Juno, and how should we be addressing that?

Getting and keeping the high calibre, quality staff will be very important. Of course, experience is crucial in a team, but you can recruit for potential and enable people to acquire experience. So I think Juno has a great opportunity to think creatively about the types of people you’re looking for and how to develop and nurture them. However, the challenge around staffing will be there, as part of being in this sector.

Another area of challenge might be around sustaining this passion into the later phases. At this first stage, everything is new and exciting, but the passion for each and every home will need to be sustained. I suppose every home will be a little different, each will present different issues and challenges, so Juno will keep evolving, but the team need to support each other and bring in fresh ideas to keep that passion alive.

Alongside that, institutionally, there might be bits of the system that could say “well if it’s not been invented here, we’re not that interested – we want to do our own thing”. So, it might be a challenge to get over that “not invented here” syndrome – if the first two homes are in Wirral, what does it mean for the team when it comes to developing relationships in other areas?

In terms of what you can do about it, well as I mentioned, relationships across the whole Liverpool City Region are a strength of Juno, so that will definitely be a mitigating factor in overcoming those challenges.

What are your hopes for residential care in the future?

I hope that it becomes a genuinely credible, viable alternative to other types of care. One that is perceived as being nurturing and loving, not just an institutional solution, and I suppose, its own alternative type of family. With just a handful of people under one roof, it really does make you think – well what is a family? It has changed so much over the past decades, so why might this not be a new version of a family?

My other hope is the outcomes that we’re looking for all children, under the big four headings of safe, healthy, happy, and learning – that these things are nurtured within the Juno family of homes. And I hope that the KPMG Foundation can help support that endeavour, learn as we go, and share the good practice that will emerge about creating the best outcomes for children.

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