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Jenny Perez on on the quest to help children with 'taboo' bowel and bladder problems

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As Jenny Perez takes over as Director of ERIC (Education and Resources for Improving Childhood Continence), Eileen Shepherd asks what challenges lie ahead for the only charity in the UK for children with bowel and bladder dysfunction

What is your role at ERIC?

I am the new Director at ERIC, taking over from Penny Dobson who has been director for the past 20 years, since ERIC began.

I have worked in the voluntary sector for over 15 years and have predominantly worked in marketing and fundraising, for well known charities such as Marie Curie Cancer Care, Help the Aged and Shelter. My most recent post was running a literacy campaign for children called ‘Read a Million Words’ which enabled me to work closely within the education sector.

What are the challenges for ERIC?

Our challenges are also our opportunities – we believe that currently we are only accessing about a third of all children and young people who have continence problems, we need to access the other two-thirds. We also know that many health professionals including nurses either don’t know about ERIC or don’t for whatever reason inform families that we exist.

ERIC is a small charity and we are in constant competition with more well known charities. Continence isn’t a sexy subject and can be seen as a taboo subject. We need to change people’s perceptions and build on our USP (unique selling point) which is that we are the only charity dealing with children in this field within the UK.

What are the priorities for the next 12 months?

ERIC has 3 key priorities which I believe are all connected.

Awareness is a fundamental priority for the charity, if children, young people families and health professionals don’t know that ERIC exists then we can’t help them.

With greater awareness this will mean that the ERIC helpline will receive more calls and the website more visitors. ERIC has a wealth of information for a wide range of audiences. Another key priority for us is to increase website visitors and callers to our helpline – these people are the whole reason ERIC exists

Finally fundraising has to be a priority, and will always be so. ERIC is aiming for more orders through the ERIC catalogue, which has a range of publications and products for childhood continence problems. The charity needs to access more philanthropic grants and donations and ERIC will aim to have more corporate sponsors and supporters by the end of the next 12 months.

How can nurses get involved?

Nurses can get involved quite simply be spreading the word, tell as many people as they can about the ERIC Helpline, Tel: 0845 370 8008, (10am – 4pm, Monday – Friday) and the ERIC website, www.eric.org.uk, which has message boards, information leaflets which can be downloaded and our trading catalogue. Nurses can also attend one of our seminars specifically aimed at ensuring nurses are trained and equipped with the best possible information to deal with children and young people who are referred to them.

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