Our Greenwich branch is one of the largest in the country and we know that smaller branches are more likely to be able to reach parents in their communities and make volunteering more enjoyable.
On the opposite end of the scale is Blackheath which is geographically the smallest in the country. We also think that our current Lewisham Deptford branch is not quite right.
So we are looking to reshape three branches.
The proposed new branches would be:
- Eltham covering SE3 (Blackheath), and SE9 (Eltham)
- Greenwich & Deptford covering SE4 (Brockley), SE8 (Deptford), SE10 (Greenwich), and SE14 (New Cross)
- Woolwich covering SE18 (Woolwich), SE2 (Abbey Wood), SE28 (Thamesmead), and SE7 (Charlton)
Frequently Asked Questions
The consultation has been running for over a month. We have had some questions that we can respond to.
Does this affect antenatal courses or other paid for courses?
Our antenatal and other paid for courses are administrated by another department. This proposal and revival will have no effect on them. Courses will continue to run regardless of any branch split and whether or not we recruit branch volunteers.
Is the proposed new branches the right one?
We know the current set up for Greenwich branch and Blackheath branch is not right. On paper the proposed split looks right. However we are missing the local knowledge. This consultation will provide that local knowledge. It may be that the further information will provide another option.
It is not definite that we will create the new branches in the way we have proposed. It may be that there is a better option.
Can we keep Greenwich as one branch?
NCT branches are based in the community that they serve. Those in the First 1,000 Days, particularly those with very young babies tend to be reluctant to travel far. Branches that identify themselves with the community tend to reach further into the community, are better at recruiting volunteers and are more successful.
The previous volunteer team in Greenwich and in Lewisham (pre 2016) had a structure that relied heavily on two or three individuals being very active and managing lots of volunteers. When we had volunteers in those roles it worked very well, and we are very thankful to those individuals. But it is difficult to recruit volunteers into those time consuming roles.
Another example is NCT Cornwall, which was one branch. There was no volunteer team, and no branch-led services. We needed to recruit a team, including a parent support coordinator. Their role would be to ensure that there was accessible parent support activities across the entire branch. As it took two hours to drive across the branch, it would be an unattractive volunteer role. We resolved the issue by splitting the branch into seven branches. We still do not have seven active branches, but we do now have pockets of activity and some services for parents in some of the smaller teams.
There is a study that suggests a community is around 250 people. Less than that and there is not enough people to do essential tasks. More than that and people assume that someone else will pick up the task. It is difficult to identify the number of people in a branch as it is more than members, or people attending courses, it is also those that may go to a Bumps & Babies group, a Nearly New Sale or be involved in some other way.
If you find another way of splitting Greenwich/merging Blackheath, will you consult before making a decision?
Yes, although we also want to give the new Blackheath branch and volunteer team a chance to start their new community. We want to be definite about the area they serve.
Blackheath branch was only created in March 2016. Why are we looking to change it now?
In March 2016, following a consultation, the old Lewisham branch was closed and in its place we created four new branches, Lewisham Deptford, Lewisham East, Lewisham West and Blackheath. During the consultation, and as the branches were created, we stated that we needed to revisit Blackheath branch as it could not continue with being just half a postcode. At that time we were only concentrating on postcodes in the old Lewisham branch. At that time we said we would revisit Blackheath when we looked at Greenwich branch. The time to look at Greenwich and Blackheath has now arrived.
Lewisham Deptford branch was only created in March 2016. Why are we looking to change it now?
This is a similar answer to the Blackheath question. In March 2016, following a consultation, the old Lewisham branch was closed and in its place we created four new branches Lewisham Deptford, Lewisham East, Lewisham West and Blackheath. At that time we were only concentrating on postcodes in the old Lewisham branch. We were aware that Greenwich needed a solution, but did not have the capacity to look at it at the same time.
Now we are looking at Greenwich area. There does appear to be a community in Greenwich (SE10) and Deptford.
As mentioned above, the proposal is that we move postcode SE10 to Lewisham Deptford and change the name. This is a proposal that we are consulting on. The decision has not yet been made.
There is the possibility of further look at the geographical reach of Lewisham Deptford. However we do not have the capacity to make further changes to Lewisham Deptford in this project beyond considering whether SE10 should move to the branch.
Can we keep Blackheath in one branch and Kidbrooke in another?
At present SE3 0 and SE3 9 are in Blackheath branch. The rest of SE3 is in Greenwich branch. As a minimum postcode SE3 needs to be re-joined.
NCT IT systems are unable to cope with split postcodes. Parents may be directed to the wrong branch and there are internal issues that we cannot resolve with the postcode being split.
Would each of the new branches have an active volunteer team and branch-led services?
We would like that to be the case, but we cannot guarantee it. We would be reliant on volunteers joining us.
People are more likely to volunteer for something within their community. They are less likely to get involved if the branch does not identify with their view of their community. We believe the new structure would be more attractive to potential volunteers.
Who makes the final decision?
The Head of Volunteering and the Executive Director Parent Services make the final decision. They will take into account the views expressed in the consultation.
How long will it take to form new branches?
Once we have gather the information needed to make a decision, the process should take around six weeks.
If you have any further queries please contact Claire Shadbolt
As an NCT supporter we value your opinion on this issue. You can access the survey at https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/BFLQBPN. There will be a chance to discuss the restructure at the meeting on the 31 January. Remember to let us know you are attending.