Our former CEO Sarah Louise founded Love Squared as Leading Lights back in 2014. June 2023 marked her sad departure as CEO from the organisation but her voice still shines through in everything we do and as our founder, she will always be involved in our work. We asked her to share some words about her time with Love Squared, what makes it so special and why we do what we do.

Love Squared was founded to be a different kind of voice and influence in the Children’s Mental Health Space. Despite amazing work from the public and third sector, too many children and young people – and often their parents/ carers and families are left feeling like they are falling through the cracks. Over many years, children’s commissioners, think tanks, advocates and the young people have called for change. Yet this has been slow to take place.

As a long term specialist children’s worker in the charity sector, often in multi-disciplinary teams, my colleagues and I would be told the same thing again and again by the children and families: They had told their stories again and again. And yet it often felt like they were not actually being heard. Long waiting lists, professionals who were tired or couldn’t help, being sent to multiple agencies for different aspects of support. Short Term Interventions which ended too soon.  A lack of understanding around the complex correlations between mental health and special educational needs. A lack of personalised and holistic programme and project design. And all these barriers converging in a way which often left children and families feeling like they were just shouting into a void. Having to say the same things again and again – stories which were painful, personal and intimate. Only to have to repeat them to someone new the following week at a different place, opening up trauma, difficult memories, feelings of frustration and anger.

Love Squared was formed to be a solution. Specialising in holistic, joined up, personalised service design rooted in expertise and a desire to really hear and to go that extra mile. To not see it as a job, but as a privilege. To take our core values of Love, Imagination, Bravery, and Nurture and to root them in every single tiny aspect of how we do things. From the tone at the top, to how we work with each other as a team, to how we approach safeguarding, to how we interact with our children and families, to how we problem solve. Sometimes it is just the little things – how we phrase difficult news, sending out cards and birthday presents to a parent who might not get them, or to a child who doesn’t have friends, how we interact with our stakeholders in social services. Whilst the services we provide are special – trauma informed counselling, holistic education and mentoring programmes for local authorities, amazing groups through Glow – these are not what makes us unique. What makes us unique is how we use our values to drive change, always thinking how we could as individuals and as a team do things with more imagination, have more impact, make this child feel nurtured.

During the Pandemic, when many other organisations cut or reduced services, we had services running within a few days. We still went out in person when we needed to because of the vulnerability of the child, we also moved digitally – looking at how we could reach those we couldn’t see in person. When a Mum couldn’t get to the shops because she had flu at Christmas, our volunteers went shopping for her and bought her flowers – she said no one had ever made her feel like that before – seen, validated, valued. This is what makes Love Squared special. And it’s where our name comes from – it is Love, not as a passive act, or a truism, or an easy flippant flick of the tongue. It’s tough sometimes, being loving. It means dealing with challenges, and being kind even when you are at the end of your tether. It’s about always seeing the best in others and role-modelling this in every action, weighing the importance of words and behaviour and how these will be felt by others.

Our impact is evident in our social impact reporting and we are proud that very unusually in the sector, we have been able to generate so much of our own revenue through self-sufficient income streams – supporting the NHS and Social Services, with an impeccable reputation for safeguarding best practice and service design. We have continued to grow and thrive, and yet there is much more work to do. We need bold, creative, imagination solutions which put the children first if we are to make real change. And we need to grow whilst still ensuring that we centre Love at the very square of things. With the amazing team, and their dedication, as founder, I am just so excited to see what we do next.

Over the years the organisation has evolved, going from strength to strength, but the vision and mission that took shape around that kitchen table has stayed at the very heart of what we do. It ensures that we continue to be driven by an unwavering commitment to championing the child’s experience and voice and bringing love to children’s services. As we move into a new chapter for the organisation, we celebrate the last 9 years of leadership and look to the future with excitement and energy. Sarah Louise may be stepping down from CEO but as our founder she is still going to be a big part of who we are and what we do. Her voice, vision and values created this amazing charity and will continue to inspire us.