I remarked last year 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 in the blink of an eye we have gone from my fourth to my fifth Annual Report as your Chairman and I’m not sure where the year has gone!!. That said it is very exciting to see the Club not only continuing to grow in numbers and expand what it is able to, but also to see it’s standing in the community continue to grow. So I look back at what a hugely successful year it has been even if there has been no rest for any of us.
We are unable to achieve all that we do on your behalf without a dedicated team of people. The team of around 28 volunteers 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 what 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. At this point last year we were awaiting our external assessment and as you are all aware we were successful and have been awarded the Accreditation until 2020. This was presented to John Pickersgill representing all the Volunteers, in April this year, by the then and now Chairman of Council Cllr. Peter Burgess. On behalf of all the members and all the Trustees a huge thanks to you our volunteers for all they do for you and for the Club.
I have been fortunate to have retained the experience of all our Trustees, 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. I am pleased that we were at last year’s AGM able to welcome three new Trustees who have already made their mark on the Club since their appointment last year and each of them bring their own unique talents and experience to our debate. A special thank you to Alison who decided on a new recruitment process for future Trustees and we look forward to welcoming Holly as a new Trustee in around 2040!!
I also need to say a huge 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. They are as vital as our Volunteers for ensuring the services delivered to you. Each of them has their own unique way of coming up with activities for you. Judy wasn’t with us at last year’s AGM as she was recovering from her knee operation and I was a little concerned that she seemed to be starting a Club here for a post-operative knee survivors, luckily that seems to have faded away. However 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. So through the quizzes, exercises, games, craft and baking sessions, tea parties and this last year cycling we rise to the challenge of stretching you in all you do.
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 Westgate, our Occupational Therapist and Fiona Conway, our Physiotherapist. I know that a number of you have had assessments carried out and have received individual therapy programmes.
Last year we were successful in obtaining funding through the West Sussex “Big Society Fund” to develop our Communication Group services. In the Autumn last year with the help of Gail Midworth –Dodds, a Speech and Language Therapist we ran our first “Couples Course” of 4 sessions over a period of 8 weeks allowing a Stroke Survivor and either a family member, friend, or carer to explore communication issues within the home following a stroke. At the end of the course we assessed the successes and failures of the course and as a result will be running an adapted version of the course this autumn of 6 sessions over 12 weeks. I am also pleased to say that we have been able to retain Gail’s services with the club as she helps us with developing our communication offerings.
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, through to working with schools and colleges as part of their curriculum requirements. We have this year been able to have students from both 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.
The last 12 months have as I said earlier been an immensely busy time following our decision to look at an extension to the Club premises. As you will be aware we now have an agreed scheme for enlarging the premises involving a new entrance and driveway. Planning Permission was granted by Horsham District Council in April this year. A Quantity Surveyor has costed out various options for us and we have met with Contractors for quotations for the work. Alongside this we have had a small fundraising group looking at raising the £250,000 needed to complete the work. As you can see from the “Fundometer” on the wall to my left we are currently just below £100,000 in funds raised so far Last month we put in an application to a grant making body for £150,000 and other applications for lesser amounts will be going in to other grant making bodies in the coming days. Don and I will be talking later in the meeting in more detail about the current state of play with the building works, the lease negotiations and upcoming opportunities for fundraising that will allow you all to be involved in this project.
In light of these developments 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 23 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. However it is only right that we highlight that we have now exhausted all our salary reserves and our salaries now have to be funded from our revenue expenditure.
In addition we have received a number of one off donations in the form of gifts and legacies and these together tight control of our expenditure meant that we were able to end the year with a surplus. 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 the target of meeting 35% of expenditure from member charges was not met. An analysis of this shortfall highlighted the number of occasions when for various reasons Members did not attend and therefore pay their daily fees. Those absences resulted in a loss of income of £5092 in the year. Unfortunately the Club has to stay open, the staff have to be paid and the building still has to lit and heated. In light of this the Trustees considered two options as a way forward. Firstly to set a much higher fee that allowed for absences but still ensured we met our target of £35% or to propose a lower fee but required that daily charges are paid a month in advance with no refund if the Member does not attend.
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 £16.00p per day, and
- Daily Charge for the Communications Group on a Thursday should increase to £8.00p per day, and
- Daily Charges will be paid monthly in advance whether or not the member attends although allowances will be made for Members on long term sickness.
Whilst we recognise this is an increase of 6.67% 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.
Thankfully this year has not been as challenging as in the past but has for obvious reasons been an extremely busy time not just for me for me but also for a number of the other Trustees. That said, and I think the other Trustees would agree, 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 and decision making and for the additional workload a number of you have taken on this year.
But before I continue I want to acknowledge the contribution made to the Club by last year’s Chairman of Council, Cllr. Roger Clarke, who adopted the Phoenix Stroke Club as one of his nominated charities that he supported during his year in office. Sadly he was unable to complete his year through ill health and passed away in March this year. Even though he was unwell he had continued to support us financially and through other means and this continued through the collection at his Memorial Service. I have on your behalf expressed our thanks for that support and our condolences to his widow who supported him in his official duties.
Usually at this point in my report I am uncertain what the following year is likely to bring. Well this year is so very different. I have great clarity that by this time next year we will be well on in the extension and improvement of this building but more importantly we will be closing in on the date of November 13th 2019 and the 40th Anniversary of the founding of the Phoenix Stroke Club and we will be looking at the challenges of the next 40 years in the life of this Club.
Chairman of Trustees
18 July 2018