After the celebrations in 2014 to mark the achievements of the Trust’s first decade of charitable service a year of consolidation had been planned, but this hardly seems to reflect the events of the first four months of the new fiscal year. As always, our endeavours have walking alongside families of seriously-ill children at its core and to this end we continue to expand not only the range of services available but also the premises from where our support can be accessed.
As is apparent from the photograph here, the fully funded extension to The Bluebells is rapidly becoming the space we envisaged, providing us with a wealth of facilities that will help us to meet the demand from visitors for well-being, advice, counselling, advocacy and guidance. We are very excited about how the new wing will finally look on completion and it is hoped our Remembrance Day event will take place in September in the ground floor space we have christened the Daisy Suite, in keeping with our botanical theme.
We are delighted with the rapid progress of our Family Outreach Hubs; the first in Slough, although in operation since last September, was officially opened by James Puxley, the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire in May. The Hub has quickly established itself as a safe, welcoming and non-clinical environment where troubles can be shared, solutions to problems identified and stresses alleviated. The Hub has been particularly busy in the last month, with a range of events and workshops keeping seriously-ill children and their siblings active and entertained.
A smaller Hub opened last month at our offices in Bagshot, providing our Outreach Workers with a place in Surrey where one-to-one emotional, social and practical support can be delivered. From listening to our families we are aware of the need to offer a range of support options that can fit into already hectic, often overstretched family situations, so that family members can access help whilst at home, in hospital and in the community. Our Family Outreach Hubs also both offer a 24 hour telephone helpline service, providing a first response in critical situations.
One of the highlights of the Family Services calendar is the annual Christmas in July party, which took place recently at Marwell Zoo. Glorious weather and an enthusiastic Trust team greeted around 250 supported family members who enjoyed festive fun with Santa in the splendid surroundings of Marwell Hall. They were able to access games and entertainment in the Secret Garden as well as all of the attractions of the zoo. Being able to bring families together is another important aspect of our work; we understand that helping them to forge links and friendships with others who walk in similar shoes is key to reducing any sense of isolation and improving the feeling of being supported. We are always delighted to obtain feedback from our families- the following quote from Charlie McGowan is typical of the responses we have received:
"We had a wonderful time as did our 4 children. We are always excited in the build up to SAT families events because it's so nice to catch up with other families and see everyone smiling and enjoying special family time. Yet each event surpasses the last in way of the prefect organisation. Being at zoo was great fun in itself due to the animals, but then to be greeted so warmly on our arrival with our goody bag, packed with water and a map to keep us going on a hot day! We then visited the secret garden where our children got to have fun in a fete like atmosphere was such good fun! We had fun on the bouncy castles and Ollie even managed to throw a ball into the tilted bucket to great cheers from the guys running the games! The food and gifts were so greatly appreciated and so yummy! But my favourite has to be the community SAT builds amongst its families, wandering around the zoo we bumped into other families who all said hello and and greeted us like long friends even though we had never met in person. As always my family and I are eternally grateful for the charities continues support and wonderful hard work that goes into their events".
In light of the sudden demise of Kids Company we, like many charities, are reviewing our policies and procedures to ensure we demonstrate consistent and clear good governance. I am pleased to report that although we walk a constant tightrope in terms of securing income against our forecast we do currently hold three months’ operat ing costs in reserve, which acts as a contingency against any unplanned shortfall and thus provides a buffer against having to reduce service provision. Our Trustees and my senior management team constantly work towards achieving an agreed business plan which sets out the objectives for the year; we strive to ensure our supporters have confidence in our ability to deliver a robust service from an effective, efficient team and through internal and external audit measures we regularly challenge our practices to affirm compliance with Charity Commission and Companies House requirements.
In spite of the perceived economic upturn it is still a challenging and competitive market for charities. Without statutory funding we remain entirely reliant upon the generosity of our supporters and sponsors and the success of our own fundraising endeavours to bring in the £1 million required to provide 100+ respite breaks and 500+ day visits at the Bluebells, outreach support to more than 300 families, access to the wealth of services at our Family Outreach Hubs and activities and workshops for siblings, parents, carers and whole families. So whether it is organising a cake sale, taking part in a trek or challenge, joining us for a CSR day, adopting us as your charity of the year or becoming a regular donor- we hope you will continue to spread the word, support our cause and feel proud to play your part in the Sebastian’s Action Trust ‘family of families’. It is said people come into our lives for a reason, a season or for life- here’s to making our charity part of yours.