Martha…

Given the range of tasks that normally befall a charity CEO, today was something rather exceptional.

At 9am, we welcomed two very talented people to the office, who were carrying two rather large boxes. Today was the culmination of a few meetings which had taken place over the past couple of months, and the level of excitement in the office as a result was truly palpable.

Susan Plummer,  and Dennis Potter have spent considerable time and effort writing and recording a song for Age UK Medway.

The song is called “Martha” and describes the thoughts of loved ones as they give care to a mother who is living with dementia.

The song describes perfectly, the sense of loss people feel, but the sense of discovery also felt in the momentary glimpses into the persons life, brought out through reminiscence and cognitive activities, just like those we deliver in our fantastic dementia services.

The tune is  very catchy, a little haunting in parts, and has a “Beatles” feel to it too, and I hope it will be very popular.

“Martha” is dedicated to Age UK Medway, and people will soon begin to hear it accompanying some of our social media posts, and see it advertised for sale very soon.

It has been a real change from business as usual to be involved in such an exciting project, which I hope will bring huge enjoyment to many, some income for our charity, and further enhance our identity locally.

It just goes to show what you can achieve, with very little resource, and a handful of very willing artists.  We now have a very professional CD to use as our charity’s theme song and it has really whetted our organisational appetite for trying something completely different.

A huge thanks to Susan, Dennis for the creative talents given for free, with such passion, and also a massive thank you to James (Jim) Doyle for his amazing artwork for the CD cover and inserts.

Keep an eye on our social media posts and website for more details to come, and please please, purchase a copy of the song from us.  It will mean a lot to us, and I know when you hear it, it will mean a lot to you too.Cover insert front

 

 

Advertisements

Trustee Champions…

Yesterday we had our March Board Meeting, held here at the wonderful Admirals offices within the Historic Dockyard, Chatham.

Our Board of Trustees come from a variety of backgrounds, including accounting, clinical practice, civic roles, local business and bring with them, many years of expertise and experience in charity governance, coupled with a singular passion to see Age UK Medway governed effectively, and guided carefully to maximize its opportunity to reach more beneficiaries within the Medway towns and beyond.

Being a Board Member is a voluntary role, and our Trustees give up at least 2 hours every 6 weeks to meet, many hours reading the senior teams board papers, and often give more time besides to support the operational staff and volunteers in delivery of events and services throughout the year.

As a CEO, leading this charity, it is my role to provide the link, between the Trustees, and their collective vision for the charity, and the staff team who have the delegated responsibility to bring to life the organisations strategic plan.

Over the years I have been in post, we have always had, an extremely dedicated and engaged  group of Trustees, who have always supported, and challenged in equal measure, to ensure that the charity stays on its strategic track, and delivers positive outcomes, year after year.  Our Trustees have built positive working relationships with each other, and the staff team, to ensure that no challenge is too difficult for us to face together, and we regularly celebrate our successes in our Board meetings, but also share our collective concerns, and our plans of how to overcome them.

I am always completely humbled by the gift that our Trustees give year upon year, something of such high value which is hugely appreciated.  The responsibility that our Trustees take upon their shoulders is considerable, and they all take that weight professionally and with real conviction, and working with them is a truly empowering experience.  It is not within everyone to give freely of your time and expertise, it does require a certain character trait, and we have been lucky to find such a dedicated group, committed to the Medway towns and the charities place within them, and impact upon them.  Our Trustees really are our charities Champions.

In the coming months, a couple of our Trustees will be stepping down, after some long service, and to make way for new blood, fresh eyes, and new skills, which is always important as the challenges around the charity change and develop.

We will be seeking trustees with a range of skills, to further compliment those already contained within our board, specifically, expertise in a social care environment, human resources expertise, legal expertise, and accounting.

Could becoming a Charity Trustee be the opportunity you have been looking out for? Is giving to your local community something that excites and energises you?

Would you have the skills and time to offer us through the year?  If the answer is yes, and you would like to find out a bit more, or you know someone who might be interested, please get in touch.  Telephone 01634 572616 and ask for me, John Norley, and I will be happy to chat through what is involved, and the process for becoming an Age UK Medway Trustee.

 

 

 

Developing people…

The opportunities that present themselves to a charity CEO are endless, varied and challenging to varying degrees, and I always relish the chance to get stuck in and wrestle with the opportunity, and turn it to the charities advantage.

Some of the challenges that come my way during an average week, are those that you might expect, new service developments, negotiations with suppliers, improving quality, finding business efficiencies etc, but some are really worth throwing my relative weight behind.

One of the largest, long standing challenges that I face as the leader of the charity, is working out how the charity survives into the future, to provide quality support and services for another generation.  for all the efforts i can make to reduce costs, improve our financial position, secure services, all of this work is pointless, unless I prioritise the biggest resource of the charity, the staff.

It easy to some extent, to look at services, and the impact they have on our beneficiaries, but it is also all too easy to forget that the charity is made up of hard working staff and volunteers, who, without nurturing, investment, coaching, mentoring and training, will leave, or become bored, disillusioned and drift off into other roles which wont support our charity objects.

Time spend, investing in the charities staff futures is time well spent, we all have to think about the future, and the future of the charity will undoubtedly have a new CEO, new senior leaders and new front line delivery staff.

Today I have spend some time with our latest staff recruit, an apprentice, who joined us in January.  She has already begun to be a good fit within the organisation, already grasped many of her tasks well, and performed them to a high standard, but is now beginning to wrestle with the additional burden placed upon her with her academic work, in order to gain her NVQ qualification.

I have sat with her, assisted her to understand the questions being asked, helped her research her responses, and helped her understand the information, encouraging her to formulate her own responses to some very tough questions, especially given that at 16 years old, some of the questions coming at her from the business administration world, seem completely alien.

When I see young people like our apprentice, I see the future.  We have for some years now, deliberately embraced the apprentice program, facilitating several apprentices to achieve their qualification, and go on to take up establishment roles within the organisation on a permanent basis.  Those young people, like the apprentice I worked with today, represent a real investment by our charity in the determination to usher in a new generation of people committed to charity work, committed to delivering quality services and support for our beneficiaries. These young people represent the commitment of the Trustees to the longer term strategy of the organisation to be present to continue to support older people in Medway for another 40 years.

Having spent time with our apprentice today, and having seen the development of others through the apprentice program, I feel confident, that whatever the future holds for charities, and whatever challenges older people will face, we have the young people working their way up to take senior roles in this organisation in the future, assuring the charities future.

You could say that my role as CEO is not to oversee and contribute to the creation of my own successors, I think it is, and I think it is essential.

Play, rewind, repeat…

Having worked damn hard over the past few years to create full costs recovery services across our charity, and cope admirably I think, with the challenge of local authority grants ending in 2017, I was beginning to feel a level of comfort about our future and about our finances.

Having full control over our income, has put the charity in an enviable position, of being able to set budgets for the coming year some months in advance, and ensure that we are meeting all of our legal obligations regarding pay and pensions, without having to wait to see what our allocation might be, like the days of old when we operated from grants.

However this morning I had the strangest conversation, well more an exchange of emails, but the point is the same, with a purchaser of our services, one who has been purchasing for sometime, year on year in fact.

We took the trouble yesterday to write out to our regular purchasers, giving two months clear notice of our price changes for the coming financial year.  We do this every year, whether the purchaser is a larger organisation or an individual, believing that people deserve at the very least, a clear working month to get heads around change reflected in the pricing of services they have taken for the past year, allowing them time to consider if they wish to continue doing so.

We occasionally get a reply asking for a bit of clarification on pricing, normally it’s from our individual customers “just making sure” that as well as charges being increased, the wages for our employees are also being uplifted.  These genuine concerns are a real insight into the value that our customers place on the services that our staff provide, and indeed the relationships of respect that customers build with our staff, so we are always more than happy to respond in the affirmative.

However this morning, a reply came from a large organisation, multi million pound turnover organisation, and the reply was nothing if not curt.  Something along the lines of “this won’t be happening, we will tell you what we are prepared to pay, you don’t get to decide”.

Needless to say, I stepped up to provide an adequate response, which gave particular clarity to the nature of the relationship between us, one of provider and purchaser of services.

The point being, I was staggered that once again this year, as was the case last year, and the year before, I needed to play on repeat earlier messages to this particular organisation, that they were in fact, completely incorrect.

Given that as employers, we are bound by the employment laws of this country, and those laws, or annual changes to those laws have increased our direct costs by upwards of 7% this year, I feel that charges being increased by a mere 2-4%, depending on which particular service you are seeking, is almost a gift in the current climate.

The value for money created within our services, and the immeasurable impact of those services in our community is dramatic, and increases year on year as we work hard to improve efficiency, improve quality and add further value to our unit costs for each and every service in our portfolio.

Meanwhile, large cumbersome, lumbering, inefficient establishments point a finger and tell us what we should be charging, or tell us we are too expensive.  All the while lurching from one expensive re-structure to another, wasting money on vanity project after vanity project.

I liken the exchange to attempting to purchase a high quality car from a very reputable dealer with excellent trust pilot ratings and outstanding customer service, and swaggering in, saying something like ” I like that top of the range car, but I won’t be paying the brochure price, I will offer you 25% less, because I believe you have some hidden costs in your research and development teams, and I once read that your CEO gets rather a large salary!”

Had I taken such an approach to the purchase of my car, I would fully expect to be escorted to the door, and perhaps be given some information on the local second hand car dealers in my area.

This is how commerce works, this is capitalism and the common market surely?  If I am told that I must set my unit costs, and market my services, and compete in a market place, then surely I have the right to do just that?  Surely the decision lay now with the potential purchaser to choose if he or she can afford the service or not?  Or perhaps if the price compared to last year is a little higher, one might consider allocating money from somewhere else to maintain purchases at the same level, or maybe, buy a few less.

As in our personal lives, everyone is free to choose the supplier of their goods and services, and free, of course, to shop around, and see if you can get a better deal from another shop or supplier.

The price is the price mate, and no I am not negotiating, no I am not showing you my books either! (Although my accounts are public record so feel free to have a look).

This is the world that has been created for charities who were once supported by local authority grants, it’s a world where charities compete with private providers, commercial operations who far outweigh local charities in terms of size and ability to drive economies of significant scale. It is a world created by shortsighted governments centrally and locally, and is a world we have had to learn to flourish in.

“Get used to it mate, or jog on!”

 

 

7 years in Medway…

So I am alerted to the fact this morning that today marks my 7th Anniversary of becoming the CEO of Age UK Medway.  In what seems like just a few years really, my tenure here has been exciting, tough, challenging, rewarding and satisfying in equal parts, and it is a role that continues to shove me out of bed in the mornings and get me to the office.

It is a real pleasure to lead this organisation, and take it to places most probably thought never possible.

It is fair to say that we have needed to be resilient, in challenging times for local charities, and the sector in general, but we have met those challenges head on, with vigor and determination to succeed, and we have overcome many if not all of the great difficulties that have come our way.

I think, on reflection, we have been able to be this resilient because of a few simple ingredients within our staff, that i attribute to them all, rather than my own influence.

A leader can be as charismatic or determined as they like really, but without the essential ingredients within a loyal staff and volunteer team, achievements will be difficult.

Our staff and volunteers have embraced a determination that our charitable services will be of the highest quality possible, and that each customer has the best experience every time they interact with the charity.  It is these principles that I stand back to witness, every time we meet as a staff group, every time the management team meet as a collective, and every time I visit our service to watch the activities and the exchanges with our customers.

Having spent the last 7 years, encouraging these behaviors, rewarding them with career progression, developing people to develop new and exciting relevant services for older people, I can honestly say that the role of CEO at Age UK Medway is one of the best roles I have ever had the pleasure to hold.

As we now step off into the new calendar year, and my 8th leading this great organisation, I do so with a very buoyant optimism for the future.  We are changing peoples lives here in Medway, and we are very good at it.

Paying for care….

It seems as hard as we look, whether a government official, a civil servant, professor of economics or the everyday person in the street, the elusive remains out of reach.

The elusive I speak of is the holy grail solution to the huge and widening gap between the finances available, and the costs of the growing need in the adult health and social care system.

During some discussions with various people over the past few weeks and months, it seems the solution to a problem that has been long in the making, is no closer to us, and the stark reality dawns with blinding reality.  There is no magic money tree in the PM’s back garden, nor is there a sufficient dividend in Brexit, or any other fish juggle that politicians would have you believe.  The reality is, it will be for a generation to suck it up, and pay into a solution which will replace solid foundations in our health and social care systems for the future generations that follow us.

We have to accept, that the new normal will be to pay for the care we want to receive, whether that care is delivered by private companies, or the third sector providers, the costs will need to be met, and we all need to start to take that on board.

I guess for those accessing the system now, its too late, and they are going to have to draw on the ever decreasing funds available, but for me, my generation, and those that follow, we need to tackle the situation with robust honesty, and resolve in our heads that we need to put more in, if we ever expect to draw out of the system.

Suggestions have been mooted, late last week, from MP’s tasked with looking into this issue, that a new National Insurance Premium, or some sort of care bond might be the solution, forced upon those aged 40 plus for example,  much like the Auto-Enrollment pension was forced upon everyone a few years ago, ensuring that payments are made into a ring fenced pot, which will boost the budget in the hardest hit areas of health and social care funding.  I am not opposed to the idea, of course no-one likes to pay more “tax”, of course they don’t, but we do seem to have been able to wrap our heads around the need to make provision for our later lives by way of a pension, so why not apply the same thought process to care funding?

Someone has to pay it, the government cant or won’t from current budgets, those who can afford it pay for it now, via private providers, so is it a huge leap to expect the rest of us to think the same way, and stump up for the later life care that we will surely feel that we deserve?

I don’t have the answers, and as I said, from what I can see and read, nor does anyone else.  But it does seem obvious from where I am sitting and working, alongside older people struggling to meet the private costs of care, and being dissatisfied with what the state can afford to provide, that we have to accept that the solution might be that we all need to pay a little bit more each month, through NI, TAX or another scheme of deduction, so that we, and those that follow don’t have the same worries and fears.

Would it really be that bad to have a little less each moth now, with a certainty of comfort and care as we get much older? A bit like a saving scheme if you will, putting a little bit by each month.

I guess attitudes to paying for care need to change, and I think we have a duty to try to change attitudes sooner rather than later.  Each new service that is created within our local Age UK, here in Medway, is created on the basis of full cost recovery.  We calculate the total costs of the service, and break that down into a unit cost, so that we can have a clear and robust pricing policy.  Our services all, with the exception of one remaining contract, generate their own income, sufficient to cover all costs, and make a small contribution to the centre of the organisation, to pay for the people behind the scenes that keep the wheels turning.

In our local community, people are used to this way of social business, finding a provider of the services you need, asking about the price, and making their own assessment based upon quality, reputation and affordability.   It seems increasingly accepted, that this is the way forward, and it is a way that puts our customers in charge.  If services don’t meet their expectations, they walk away, go somewhere else, they vote with their feet, much like we all do everyday in the high street shops.

So the tide is starting to turn, people are beginning to understand, that they must pay for care, now and into the future.

If you build it….

Apparently, according Kevin Costner, an old film reference I know, “If you built it, they will come.”

Well it seems that isn’t always the case. The context for adult health and social care is changing so fast, that it’s difficult for slow moving statutory authorities, with hands tied to prevent spending, to match the pace of growing need in many areas of our work.

In 2013/14 Age UK Medway answered a call from the Council, practically begging us to do something to ease the growing burden of need locally for people living with dementia and memory conditions.

We delivered, and delivered fast, and opened a specialist centre for people living with dementia, capable of caring for 32 people per day, and of course reaching out to their carers too.

Just three years on, we look at a centre paralysed by the austerity cuts in the local authority’s adult health and social care budgets, we hear from social workers, terrified to make referrals, due to the impact on the council’s budget, leaving people who most need the support, floundering, reliant on services run by volunteers.

Of course volunteer services are amazing, and they continue to form the backbone of charitable work, but they can never and should never be used to replace professional regulated specialist services.

So the situation is now that there are several “baseball fields” sitting, waiting for the people to come, with an invisible, impenetrable shield around them, created by years of cuts, systematic erosion of social care budgets, guarded by elected officials with outdated views and confused priorities.

If you want to help me break through, for the benefit of every older person that needs our support. Share this.

Feeling the squeeze…

20160225-_GOL1317

I read a Tweet last night, yes from time to time, when I have the time, I dip into social media and try to keep pace with the key issues of the local community and National debate, after all, this is the context in which we operate our Charity, and it is the political and financial external context that looms large in our future.  As a charity proud to have already made the transition, much encouraged, from benevolence to commercial minded charity management, we find ourselves in a place where we risk feeling a rather uncomfortable squeeze.

For a few years now, we have amended our cost models, and designed new services to be based upon full cost recovery financial modelling, sensible, given the shrinking statutory pot, and the challenges involved in fundraising for a cause that doesn’t particularly strike many heart strings.

So here we are, a fully formed up SME to all intents and purposes, with charitable aims and values, with a determination to grow to reach more and more vulnerable people in our community.

So here’s the squeeze, because we have learned to charge for services, and perform contracts, and operate in a commercial context, we of course, need to fall in line with all of the relevant laws that govern small business. Including the National Living Wage, auto enrollment pensions, paid travelling time for peripatetic workers, the list goes on.

We hear via Twitter, the news coverage etc, that the country has ambition to have National Living Wage of £10 per hour. Great for our workers in the health and social care sector that really need to take home a level of pay that enables them to have a decent standard of living, great for workers elsewhere in the country who have been paid low salaries for some pretty tough jobs, and what charity CEO would not support that initiative?

The difficulty is, we are operating our charity in a commercial context, where contracts from Local authorities come with fixed costs. over the last 4 years, we have seen an approximate 20-30% increase in our direct costs as a result of these pieces of progressive legislation.  However, the same powers that push up the wage costs, are also reducing the value of contracts, and expecting ever more for their money.

We of course, have responded with increased efficiency, the take up of technology to drive further efficiency and add value to the customer experience, but there is a limit.

The most recent increase to the NLW, due in April 2018, will add £80k to the wage bill, reaching a £10 per hour NLW will add a massive £400k to the bill, if we maintain our staff numbers at the same level, making us completely unsustainable in our current shape.  The level of efficiency needed to re-balance the accounts will see our service provision to older people in the Medway communities cut in half, our staff cut by 50% and give us little opportunity to reach more people in the future.

So who will reach those people? the local council? Doubt it, there isn’t the money. The Government? Same answer. Commercial companies? With the margins that can be derived from health and social care contracts? I very much doubt it, and if anyone does fill the gap, it will be with a reduced standard of service, because quality costs money.

Either local authority contracts need to reflect the rising costs of operating in this environment, by matching cost inflation each year, or something is going to go bang.

Who will look after the older people in our community when every charity, small business and provider of services have locked the door and gone home?

I will just leave this here.

2018 is going to be busy…

My first blog of the New Year, with a commitment to try to blog more frequently, giving the promised insight into our strategic plans and the inner workings of Medway’s largest charity for the benefit of older people.

Those of you who have read my blogs in the past, will recognise a trend of doing new things, launching new programs and projects, growing our charity to reach more people in more ways than before, trying to close the gaps in service provision left by reducing statutory services and creating services which enhance, and compliment existing services to ensure that older people in Medway have the opportunity to love their later lives.

2018 marks the start of our new strategic plan, and sets out over the coming 5 years, some really innovative ways in which we hope to improve our service offer, and reach more people than ever.

Key to the success of this will be our continued growth, particularly into areas which currently do not have Age UK services.  In December 2017, we welcomed 25 staff from a neighboring Age UK (Sittingbourne and Faversham), as we took transfer of the Faversham based homecare service, which serves just over 60 clients.  Now that those staff are in Age UK Medway’s employment, we can start our planned growth of the Faversham services, which, we hope, will spread through Sittingbourne too, connecting with our current homecare border in Rainham.

Later this month, our staff will embark on a series of training sessions to introduce them to our new computer systems, and with new knowledge, we hope to be able to find greater efficiency in the way we work, and maintain our services for older people at a very accessible level in terms of cost.

As the year progresses, we will develop staff in the Faversham based team to recruit more carers and senior carers, so that we can reach everyone in our new area of work who wishes to use our services.

We hope to take new offices here in the Chatham Historic Dockyard too, additional to the ones we currently occupy, which will provide staff here with improved training space and facilities, but also allow us to welcome new staff, for the new services we intend to create in the year.  More on that as we launch the services.  Our growing finance team will be able to relocate into a more suitable space for their confidential work, and the additional space will provide the growth resource we need as we take on the challenges of providing more to a greater number of beneficiaries.

But of course, with every prospect of change, comes challenges, which will need to be overcome. Those challenges will test our staff at every level, and of course give our trustees something to get their teeth into too.

We will sit down next week as a senior team, and begin to finalise the budget for the coming financial year, which at the moment, in its draft stage, looks reasonably healthy, and allows us to fix some of our higher priced services for a year, meaning no cost increases for our customers, which I am sure will be very welcome news.

We will continue to offer our new charity Bursary, for those most in need, and explore new ways of generating income this year, which allow us to continually top up that bursary, again allowing more people in need to benefit from the services Age UK Medway can offer.

The overwhelming challenge for us all, will be finding a way for people to plan for and put money aside for their care needs in the future.  We know that government funding is dwindling, and that people are realising that care must be paid for, but filling the gap now, and creating sufficient funds for future use is a burning issue for charities and local authorities, and this year, Age UK Medway hopes to bring a really credible solution forward, so watch this space.

 

 

At times, its is very frustrating…

It was best intention to use my blog to give a little insight, to anyone interested, into the inner workings of the charity, the challenges we face day to day, the processes and thoughts we work through and overcome to bring our services to those who need them the most.

As it has turned out, the complexity and pressing nature of the day to day job has meant that my blog posts have been less frequent than I would have liked, and often subject focused, rather than a commentary of the behind the scenes.

So I am going to attempt to give a little insight, without compromising any commercial sensitivities, or upsetting any potential or current relationships, of the delicate path that the modern charity is forced to walk, as it makes its way through growth and development and the processes of delivering quality services to those most in need.

It is at all times, the most privileged position to hold, one of CEO of a local charity.  It is without doubt, the most challenging, exciting, empowering and complex role I have ever undertaken, and certainly has continued to surprise and challenge me in equal measure this last 5 years.

I still today, continue to be surprised, particularly at the level of misunderstanding of the concept of charity, applied to our local status, reputation and of course service provision.

A long time ago, when I first entered the sector, it was apparent that the traditional form of charity, the benevolent charity, the charity of giving from donations was slowly dying and making way for a more commercially astute, business savvy charitable sector, charged with the delivery of service contracts, production of outputs and now outcomes, and measuring impact, whilst at the same time meeting regulatory expectations, legislative change, and of course, all of the myriad of hurdles that present every employer in the country.  As a person new to the sector, i could see that, it was evident nearly 20 years ago.

Yet today, our local charity is still met with critique and disappointment, that we employ staff and charge for our services.  surprisingly, and probably the biggest shock to me, is that the critique doesn’t come from our customers and beneficiaries, their relatives and carers, because this cohort of people is grounded in reality and fully expect to pay for services, and in fact relish the opportunity to shift from service user to customer, taking control of their customer experience and speaking out if they are dissatisfied in any way, resolving issues and improving the customer experience along the way.

But that the disappointment and critique in the main come from those who actually ought to be best placed, in a position of oversight and overall responsibility, and having occupied that space for the past 20 years, really should have seen the changes going on around them, and the changes being forced through new laws, more commercial processes applied to local service procurement and of course the micro processes created by their own establishments which have over time, nudged, pushed and forced charities to make the change we have witnessed.

How is it, that people of power, control and influence, occupy a shielded utopia that is so far removed from reality that the impact of their decisions are a) never questioned and challenged and b) so diametrically opposed to the very sector they rely on to deliver services, that their statements grossly offend with a level of ignorance that defies belief?

Imagine the frustration of trying to set a budget for a service which is very much needed, with a growing market, with increasing costs of staff, training, regulation with an ever decreasing income to cover those costs, imagine that business model, imagine that you have 5 or 10 services like that, with the contributions from those services being so small, that the overhead costs of the organisation are only just covered, imagine too that you are charged with growing the provision to meet a rapidly growing need, with no specific additional income other than what you can draw from a competitive market place, imagine the other issues that run alongside, responsibility for an organisation that has become a large local employer, of well over 120 staff, that operated within a tightly regulated environment, CQC inspections, data protection legislation changes, safeguarding, health and safety, etc etc, and imagine all of that in a context where you fully understand that you don’t pay your staff the best salaries in the market place, because you have limited funds, that you certainly cannot compete with other commercial organisations that pay approximately 20-30% higher salaries for equivalent posts

Imagine how you might feel if those people of power and control made a very public statement about “charities paying Chief Executives over inflated salaries” and “Charities have grown fat on the Government purse”

I can tell you that the level of frustration is enormous, hearing statements like that, underline that the new charity sector has so much work to do, to change the false perception of charities locally, and probably nationally too.  Hearing statements like that, from people who are clearly ill informed or ignorant, perhaps both, feels like they are personally attacking me, my staff and volunteers, despite all of the amazing work we do, and have done in the community for such a long time.  It uncovers my most protective instinct, to stand at the front of my team and my customers and to shout back on behalf of us all.

If you ask our customers, they know the truth, they understand the amazing work we do, the huge contribution we make to the local economy, local employment, excellent service provision, and they value the way in which we continue to strive to make our services the very best value for money that we can.

It is, at times, very frustrating indeed, to be party to all of the good work happening within charities locally, and yet party to the nonsensical statements made about local charity and have to sit tight and reserve comment for when I have calmed down a bit and considered my response.

It is my comfort to know, that those people making the most preposterous statements will of course come full circle, because time is unstoppable, and they will become old.

Perhaps they might even need a local charity like ours.  Lets hope the future charity sector locally has withstood the onslaught of unfair critique, or it might not have survived to support those who shouted such nonsense.