Tom Costello

October 23, 2018

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Trustee's Organisation Name

Children's Rights Alliance
Outline the vision and the mission of the chosen nominee's organisation

Founded in 1995, the Children’s Rights Alliance unites over 100 members working together across the country to make sure that Ireland is one of the best places in the world to be a child. Our mission is to realise the rights of children in Ireland through securing full implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Life can be tough for many children in Ireland. Childhood is a special place but too many are not able to fulfil their potential. We focus on children living in poverty and who are homeless, children in their early years, child refugees, and on children who are prevented from accessing justice when their rights are not fulfilled. We stand up for all of these children and more.

We identify problems for these children. We develop solutions. We educate and provide information on children’s rights. We unite our members and put pressure on government and decision-makers to put children first. We change children lives by making sure that their rights are respected and protected in our laws, policies and services.

We are successful and our work has had a big impact on children’s lives. We push for systems change at the top that trickles down to benefit children on the ground. The changes we make mean that children are better able to access childcare, education, healthcare and any special supports they may need. Ultimately, our work means that children can do better and have a greater chance to fulfil their potential in life.
Describe the nominee's involvement with the organisation

Before becoming Chair, the Alliance worked with Tom up to 2011 when he worked with The Atlantic Philanthropies who supported us through philanthropic investment. We came to know Tom well as an extremely able philanthropic advisor but also as a kind and generous man, whose best interests were always the ultimate benefactors – children.

We were thrilled when Tom agreed to become Chair in 2014, a role he carried out with superb skill until 2018. During this time, the Alliance grew from strength to strength, increasing its reputation and making important strides forward for children.

Tom used his deep understanding of the not-for-profit and philanthropy sectors to allow us stabilise our funding and gain new core and project funding. Knowing how important it is for charities to maintain good governance and build up trust to stakeholders, Tom enabled us to build up our capacity in these areas.

Tom’s support on governance and strategic guidance supported the organisation to secure historic change for children. During Tom’s stewardship, the Alliance achieved the following:
• Placing of children’s rights at the heart of our Constitution in a Referendum in 2012
• A change in the law so it is no longer legal to hit your child.
• The closure of St. Patrick’s Institution, an adult prison incarcerating children.
• Passage of the Children and Family Relationships Act so children born inside and outside marriage are protected equally, and family law puts children first.
• Adoption by Government of a new approach to lift 100,000 children out of poverty.
• Important changes for asylum-seeking children who are amongst the poorest in Ireland, including increases in their weekly payment from €9.60 to €29.80.
• Introduction of paternity leave so fathers can spend more time with their babies.
What special qualities and skills does the nominee bring to their role as trustee?

Tom is a great leader, possessing many qualities and a breadth of experience. If we had to sum Tom up in one word, it is ‘generous’. He has always been generous with his time and skills, leading the Board and providing untold support to Tanya our Chief Executive. He has been the lynchpin in growing our good governance and central in diversifying our income.

On his many office visits, he always stopped to say a friendly word to staff. Tom officiated at many events and conference, many of which were held jointly with members amongst whom he is popular and well-regarded. A milestone moment was when he chaired the opening of our new Children’s Hub in Smithfield, a building we were lucky to be able to purchase with our member EPIC thanks to The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Tom chaired countless AGMs, conferences, meetings and legal seminars. Perhaps the most memorable was his official opening of an unforgettable fundraising concert, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony held in the CHQ building in the IFSC. Tom’s generous direction always ensures success even with a full orchestra and choir present!

Tom has a background in youth work and this really shows. He cares about children and knows what they need to reach their potential, a driver that is central to his decision-making. His wisdom has reached the highest levels of influence serving as a Ministerial nominee to the National Advisory Council for Children and Young People, the body that oversees the roll-out of the national strategy on children and young people.

Even though Tom recently retired as Chair, his generosity continues taking on some new policy and research work for us. For this and all he has done for us and the
How has the nominee's involvement had a positive impact on the organisation and the people it serves? Give a specific example of their impact on the organisation

Tom’s involvement as Chair of the Children’s Rights Alliance has been pivotal to our success over the last four years. Perhaps the single greatest contribution that Tom has made is in supporting us to consolidate all the key features of good governance as it applies to a Charity like ours. Tom possesses strong theoretical and applied expertise in this regard, and is also a member of the Board of the Charities Regulatory Authority.

Tom’s guidance in this area has been vital in an era where our members, funders and the public demands and rightly deserves the highest levels of governance, accountability and transparency. An organisation like ours trades on its excellence and in particular its reputation with stakeholders, both governmental and civil society based. This is why we have been so fortunate to have Tom support us in this area.

Key to this, Tom led our strategic planning process and developed our Risk Register and Risk Management systems. He also initiated a new board effectiveness and a board skills review process to enhance our efficiency.

A highpoint as well as an indicator of Tom’s good work was winning a Good Governance Awards in 2017. The public recognition that this award gives us helps us to prove to those that put their trust in us that we work effectively and transparently. We would not have achieved this accolade without Tom’s support and advice to reach for the stars in terms of good governance.

Tom’s encouragement and support to strengthen this area has left us with a fine legacy. In 2018, we were pleased to have been able to recruit for a brand new
How is the nominee's organisation transparent and accountable?

The Children’s Rights Alliance was set up under a Memorandum of Association, establishing the objects and powers of the charitable company. We are governed by a Constitution and managed by a Board of Directors. We take accountability seriously and seek to achieve the highest standards of governance.

Working with our Chief Executive, Tanya Ward, Tom oversaw us to achieve the following:
• Become a fully compliant organisation under the Governance Code for Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations in Ireland. See www.governancecode.ie.
• Update our governance standards and adopt a Governance Handbook for Board members, following a governance review completed by Boardmatch.
• Register with the Charities Regulatory Authority and submit our Annual Report in compliance with the Charities Act 2009.
• Publish our Annual Directors’ Reports on our website in line with SORP, the Statement of Recommended Practice, Accounting and Reporting by Charities 2005.
• Sign up to the Statement of Guiding Principles for Fundraising (Charities Ireland).
• Publish the following on our website under ‘Our Promise to Supporters’: Donor Charter, Public Compliance Statement, Handling Feedback and Complaints Procedure, Information Line and Legal Clinics Complaints Policy.
• Publish our Child Protection Policy adhering to Children First: National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children.
• Register with the Lobbying Register and submit quarterly returns under the Lobbying Act 2015.
• Update the Staff Handbook and Governance Handbook.
• Develop a new Risk Management Policy and Register.
• Undergo training on good governance for Board and staff.
• Commission Graphite HRM to undertake an audit to inform a Health and Safety policy.
• Win a Good Governance award in 2017 (Category 2, income between €250,000 and €1 million).

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