They say that as you get older so time seems to go by quicker than it did the previous year. There must be an element of truth in that saying because here I am presenting to you my fourth Annual Report as your Chairman and it seems like only yesterday that I was taking over from Don. So what can I say, well in balance sheet terms the negatives are that your Fixed Asset is 12 months older and has a lot more grey hair. It also true to say that your Current Asset is infinitely more valuable and has infinitely more accumulated reserves built up from the experiences I have gained with you and on your behalf over the last year and that has been a great privilege. It has been wonderful to see the Club continuing to grow in numbers and expand what it is able to, but also to see it’s standing in the community grow.
We are unable to achieve all that we do on your behalf without a dedicated team of people. A huge part of the team are the team of around 28 volunteers who week by week give up their time to come and serve you and in doing so enrich what we are able to provide by bringing their skills, their own experiences and their enthusiasm for all that they do. As the Trustees we wanted to ensure that we were doing to support the volunteers was the best that we could do and so we decided to test ourselves against a national standard – Investors in Volunteers and so asked an external organisation to judge us and what we were doing against that standard. That formal assessment is likely to take place in September. So on your behalf and on behalf of all the Trustees a huge thanks to you our volunteers.
I have been fortunate to have retained the experience of all our Trustees this year, a number who have many years of experience between them of not only with the Phoenix Stroke Club but also with other charities involved in providing care for people in need. One thing we do every 18 months or so as Trustees, is to take time out from the day to day management issues and to think about where we need to develop in the future and the resources we need to achieve those plans. At this year’s “Away Day” we decided that we wanted to widen our pool of experience and decided to approach three individuals who we felt would bring different perspectives to the club and our running of it and I will be recommending to you later three new Trustees.
The Club continues to be blessed with dedicated and hardworking staff and I would like to publically say thank you to both Judy and Ann for the dedication and enthusiasm that they both bring to their roles here and the varied and at times challenging activities that they bring to you. Each of them has their own unique way and I’m in awe of someone who can organise a pantomime and have the confidence to be ill on the day of its performance and yet know she can leave it to everyone to perform without her personal direction!! Whilst Judy isn’t able to be with us today as she recovers from her knee operation I know that you thank them all the time in your own way and I’m sure that you will want to reinforce that in your own personal ways later.
The Club has enjoyed a very successful year in terms of the club activities. Whilst there are currently a few spaces on each of the days that we meet, we still regrettably we have had to restrict the number of wheelchairs that we can accommodate on each day due to space limitations. Whilst we understand that this can cause disappointment for persons looking to join us it is essential that we preserve the atmosphere within the club to everyone’s benefit. Each of our club days has its own unique “feel and atmosphere” as does the Thursday Communication Group.
The Phoenix Club continues to provide an excellent service to all of our members and their carers that provides invaluable and constructive help support and encouragement to enable the members to enjoy as full a life as possible for them individually and continue with their own rehabilitation. We cannot rest on our laurels in this respect and the Trustees are looking at ways in which the club can assist members with that on-going rehabilitation. We have continued the visits by Shelley, our Occupational Therapist and Beth and Anna, our Physiotherapists. I know that a number of you have had assessments carried out and have received individual therapy programmes.
This year we were successful in obtaining funding through the West Sussex “Big Society Fund” to develop our Communication Group services. The £15,000 received for the next two years will allow us to develop services for couples to aid their communication within the family. We are hoping to start this service in the autumn with the help of a Speech and Language Therapist and we will keep you informed as plans are finalised.
One of the strengths that I have experienced with the Phoenix Stroke Club is its community involvement. This extends from our support of the supported volunteer programme in partnership with the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust, working with schools as part of their National Curriculum requirements, through to our involvement with Horsham Rotary on the “Know Your Blood Pressure Day”.
We have this year been able to have students from Central Sussex College and from Forest Boys and I hope that you as members enjoyed having the students working with you. We hope to have more students from both establishments this next year.
As I mentioned earlier in January this year the Trustees held their Away Day to think about future needs. We recognised the limitations that the current size of our premises put upon us particularly the number of people we can accommodate in wheelchairs. The Trustees agreed that we should explore enlarging our current building to give us more space and an architect has come forward with sketch ideas to extend the building onto the patio area. Simultaneously we have been in discussions with the County Council concerning our lease for the site and I am pleased to be able to say that we have an agreement in principle with West Sussex for a 25 year lease for the site. This gives us the security we were seeking to be able to commit the necessary expenditure to extend the building and improve the internal layout and facilities in our building.
We have now asked the architect to come forward with more detailed plans and costings to be able to apply for the necessary planning and building approvals. Obviously this will be a substantial financial outlay and whilst we have some reserves identified for buildings costs the Trustees have already started the process of raising the additional necessary funds to cover these costs. As the proposals are developed and the detail becomes clearer we will keep you apprised.
In light of this development it might seem somewhat strange to remind you all of the financially challenging times we live in at the moment. However putting aside the capital costs of the building we still rely on funding from a number of different sources to meet our ongoing daily running costs, and these include the membership fees and daily charges that you as members pay each term and time you attend. In 2009 the Trustees set themselves a policy to build up unrestricted reserves to the point where our accumulated unrestricted reserves equated to 2 years of running costs. Whilst at this point in time we have not achieved that position yet, we have moved closer and as Matthew will show you later when he brings our Annual Accounts you will see that we now have reserves that equate to just over 21 months of expenditure. The breathing space that we have created means that we have been able to maintain our continuity of services whilst looking to secure additional funding which is an on-going challenge for us.
During the past year in addition to the “Big Society Funding for the Communications Group Project, we were able to secure grants of £20,000 and in addition, have forward commitments of £15,000 towards the funding for 2017/18. In addition we have received a number of one off donations in the form of gifts and legacies. As you are aware the Trustees looked at all of our funding streams and in November 2014 agreed a Funding Policy that will direct our future decision making in terms of sources of funding and agreed that In terms of the charges and subscriptions paid by you it was agreed that these should generate at least 35% of the annual running costs and that hiring charges should generate at least 5% of the annual running costs. In the year just ended those two combined targets were not quite achieved.
With regard to subscriptions and charges levied for attending the club the Trustees will be recommending to you that:-
- Termly Subscriptions should remain as a minimum cost of £10 per term,
- Daily charges for the club days Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday should increase to £15.00p per day, and
- Daily Charge for the Communications Group on a Thursday should increase to £7.50p per day.
Whilst we recognise this is an increase of 11% we still believe the charges represent fantastic value for money. As ever if any member finds themselves struggling with the new charges please speak in confidence with Judy who has the Trustees authority to waive the charges in appropriate cases.
This year has again been a challenging time for me; probably caused by myself in part, but not quite the baptism of fire my first year was. That said, it has also been an immensely pleasurable year. To have been able to take part in some of the activities with you the members has been fun – especially the tea, biscuits and cake. But what has made it pleasurable has been to see you the members all enjoying yourselves and having a go at whatever you have been asked to do. Long may that continue.
To all my fellow Trustees – thank you for putting up with me and for all your support, guidance and encouragement during our many debates.
However before I close I would like to acknowledge one of our volunteers for his determination. I refer of course to Iain Campbell. Most would think that when preparing to celebrate a major birthday with zeros on the end that they would look to relax and take things easy!! But not Iain – he decided to run three marathons in 6 weeks, Brighton, London and Stirling. He has completed all three and in doing so has raised some £3000 for the Club this year. Iain congratulations from all of us – well done.
After this year you might wonder where we go next. I’m not sure at this point but I am certain it will be to better things and long may that continue.
Chairman of Trustees
11 July 2017