An update from Andy

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Here is an update from our Chief Operating Officer Andy Graham, on what has been going on at the Centre.

He has recorded a video to all members to give a brief update on where we are at the moment.  If you don’t want to watch the video a written version is below.

I am working closely with the board of trustees and we wanted to give you all a brief update on where we are.

The one thing for sure is that life really is different now for all of us, working from home, not working from home, shopping for others, not shopping at all, but most of all not meeting people, friends family loved ones and possibly even those encounters with utter strangers where a random conversation adds something extra to your day.

I wanted to give you all a brief update on “where are we?”, “what we are working on?”, and “where we are heading?”.

We had started a conversation about the future of the Chilterns MS Centre and how we needed to look at various options for sustainability. So, whilst that is still true, the Covid-19 situation has changed the order of the programme.

Before Covid-19 we were to work through sustainability options, complete the annual accounts, hold an AGM – at which we would discuss the next steps for sustainability, and then implement changes. During this process, we knew that our reserves were “low but manageable” giving us time and space to look at options with care and consideration.

Now, with Covid-19, our programme has three stages which I will use to answer those three questions.

Firstly – Where are we?

With income at immediate and significant risk of falling away we had to implement actions to manage services for members, manage staffing levels and manage resources.

It has been a really difficult period for everyone but I am absolutely delighted with what the clinical team have achieved and set up in such a short period of time. We may do a Thursday 8.00pm hand clap for the NHS – but lets do a spontaneous round of applause for the clinical team right now – thank you!

Secondly  – What are we working on?

There is a huge amount of activity going on, much of it behind the scenes, all focussed on improving the prospects of the Centre in the short term.

Centre Appeal – Catherine and the fundraising team have done an amazing job in pulling together an appeal which you will have seen and as of 20 April the appeal has raised almost £15,000, which is incredible.

Fundraising –  we are working hard in all areas; with our major donors, Kate is working with trusts both existing and looking at some of the new ones that have emerged in the crisis and Faye is working with the CCG (Clinical Commissioning Group) to maximise income from them.

Insurance  – we do have some cover in our policy for pandemics, and Liz Tubb and I are actively engaged with our brokers to understand how much we can claim.

Government support – in addition to the furlough scheme, there are small business loans and some grant funding available for small charities, especially those providing care. These are all lines of action we are working on.

Centre Building –  costs are now much reduced as it is pretty much in a “moth-balled” status but there is a regular schedule of things to check on to ensure we can re-open with minimal delay when the time is right.

The message I want to share with everyone is that I do believe we are doing everything we can at the moment – and that is down to the dedication and focus of our staff – and for that I am truly thankful.

Thirdly – Where are we heading?

I guess this is the hardest to answer right now, I hope to have a clearer picture in May when some of the bigger questions over lock down, easing of sanctions, insurance as answered.

What I think is clear is the reduction in reserves that I mentioned at the start will come sooner as a result of Covid-19. So from a financial point, the attention we had started on sustainability will have to come back into our lives very soon and we will have less time to look at options, or some options may no longer be available to us.

In this short period of time we have been forced to look at new ways of working, and we can take this as a positive for the future to enable more people to be reached in the community. I think the future for the Centre remains bright if we keep working hard to maximise our income.

A clear message I took away from Have Your Say in February was that you, the membership, wanted more clear and transparent communication, so I hope this is in tune with that sentiment.

Looking forward to giving you more details in May.

Please stay safe and well.