The Trust held its AGM on 2nd December 2021, with all Trustees and Trust Manager present.
Here is a copy of the Chair’s report.
‘Firstly, thank you to Diane, Trust Manager, for all her efficient work over the last year, especially in keeping the Trustees coordinated and liaising with all our funded projects. Also, thank you to every Trustee for contributing their time and expertise to the functioning of the Trust; this had to be largely online rather than face to face, and overall has gone smoothly. In spite of all the pandemic related difficulties, the Trust has enhanced the well-being of a significant number of vulnerable families and their young children within the county, many made more vulnerable by lockdown. We have seen the level of need here significantly increase from the descriptions in the Quarterly Monitoring returns. For instance, the reduction in availability of health visitors has meant that some projects are picking up more undiagnosed developmental delay.
Our portfolio of investments, and income source, continue to be managed by Rathbones and monitored by Trustees, Steve and John. This is deemed to be performing satisfactorily, consistently above the benchmark, especially given the financial situation over the last year. Although Peter Lang Publishers was liquidated and sold on, and in theory the Trust was owed some remaining funds as a creditor, the remaining sum that was due has been written off by our Auditors as a bad debt, as we have been told that further payment is very unlikely.
This year marked another grant round with the re-application of two existing projects and another new application refused on the grounds of a lack of evidence base to back up the proposal.
For the first third of the year projects were again working under the conditions of lockdown, unable to meet directly with parents and children. All successfully adapted to this, as before turning to creative ways to enable them to continue to support the families who had engaged with them by using online facilities such as telephone, social media and Zoom for groups. All Homestart projects had to move over to these ways of working once more, as it was impossible to continue with their usual home visiting; although a return to normal has now mostly occurred. Several centres with suitable premises were able to continue seeing a few clients face to face, while still following government guidelines. With the gradual lifting of Covid-related restrictions we have now seen them all return to face to face working. However, many of the groups have seen a reduction in numbers compared to pre-lockdown as some potential participants continue to feel anxious. All of these measures in response to lockdown helped parents across the county feel less isolated and more supported.
It is widely reported that this period of enforced social isolation was putting a great deal of stress upon families and children, and throughout this year most projects have noted a growth in mental illness and domestic violence. The increased pressure on statutory services, such as social care and mental health also contributed to a surge in demand across the voluntary sector. The full return to face to face working was a slow affair across the county, as many parents remained anxious about the risk of infection and the psychological and social consequences of lockdown linger on. However, those who were able to run outdoor summer schemes of one sort or another reported how much these were appreciated by all involved.
Most of our projects, not all, have adopted at least one recognised outcome measure since we have put more emphasis on this. The grid that sets the list of PLCT desired outcomes against assessment measures has been used to varying degrees of efficiency over the last year; an improvement on previous, but there is still some was to go to attain consistency across all projects.’