An extract from our 2014 Trustees' Report and Accounts.
2014 was an exciting and productive year for the British Stammering Association (BSA). We re-launched our newly designed website, held the very first Employers Stammering Network (ESN) gathering for members, our conference took us to Scotland and we moved offices. The autumn was a particularly challenging period for the charity, due to funding problems. The BSA had to reduce staffing levels and our regular magazine Speaking Out was put on hold. After a review and with the support of a few generous donors, the BSA was back on a sound footing.
The newly redesigned www.stammering.org went live in March 2014 - over 15,000 users are accessing the website each month. The design made it easier to navigate, and users can download an information pack straight away. Interactive features now allow visitors to share articles they find helpful with their networks, and have the ability to make comments on pages to share their own personal experiences. The idea behind the updated www.stammering.org was primarily to allow visitors better access to the wealth of information our charity holds on stammering.
At the end of 2013, we noticed that there was an increased need to provide a more secure channel where people affected by stammering could come together to share their experiences online. To meet this growing need, BSA started a closed Facebook group to create a place where members did not have to worry about others reading their posts. By the end of 2014, the group proved to be very popular, with over 1,000 users - many members of the group now post and comment every day.
Information and Support Service and Education helpline
In 2014 over 3,500 contacted our Information and Support Service and Education helpline. People were helped via email or telephone. Questions and concerns were diverse, covering employment issues and the difficulty of accessing speech therapy.
As part of the Information and Support Service, our Education Officer continues to run a dedicated education advocacy line which deals with complex education enquiries, including appealing against school placements or requesting additional support in the classroom for children who stammer.
In the past, enquiries to the Education helpline were primarily from worried parents, but in recent years more and more speech and language therapists have contacted the advocacy line. Due to cuts, many experienced stammering specialists have lost their jobs, leaving fewer experienced therapists with little or no knowledge of the condition to help children who stammer.
Employers Stammering Network
The Employers Stammering Network (ESN) celebrated its first birthday in May 2014. Currently (August 2015), 14 organisations have signed up to be part of the ESN – amongst them international names like Shell, KPMG and RBS. Other members, who collectively employ over 1.3 million, include DHL, Warrington Borough Council and Prudential. The result is that thousands of people who stammer work for employers who are now committed to supporting them to reach their full career potential.
The first gathering of the ESN members, took place in the City of London in June. There were representatives from big names including EY, Citigroup, HSBC, Prudential, DHL, Lloyds Bank, FirstGroup and Accenture in attendance to discuss ways to make the working environment better for people who stammer.
Our conference was held in Scotland this year, in August at Strathclyde University in Glasgow City Centre. The theme of the conference focused on Employability. Working with our friends from the Scottish Stammering Network, a Scottish charity, the two-day conference provided people affected by stammering, throughout the UK and internationally, with the opportunity to come together not only to talk about stammering, but also to gain confidence and practical communication skills to help their employability. We owe much thanks to the entire organising committee, but especially to David Lilburn, John Mann and Fiona Moran.
In July 2014 we held the final pilot programme of speech and language therapy courses designed to help adults who stammer improve their communication skills and increase confidence levels to participate more freely in searching for employment and ultimately gain employment or promotion. The course was delivered by two speech and language therapists from the City Lit in Central London.
Independent analysis of participants’ feedback was done by London City University. Overall, participants’ views on the course were positive and it was clear from their ability to recall details that it was also memorable, with techniques being used since. The main gains they felt were increased confidence and positivity towards their stammer. This in turn enabled them to focus and approach job applications and interviews with greater confidence and motivation to succeed.
Their stammer was now less of an issue and all of the clients were open to attending another BSA course if offered in the future. The course experience was also beneficial in sharing experiences with other people in a similar situation. All of the participants felt more confident in applying for jobs and attending an interview in the future.
International Stammering Awareness Day
22nd October 2014 was International Stammering Awareness Day. A group of volunteers spent the day at Liverpool Street Train Station collecting donations from commuters. Over £800 was raised.
Stammering in the Media
There were two TV programmes which brought stammering to the attention of a wider audience. In the autumn, our Information and Support Service experienced a surge in the number of enquiries in response to the Channel 4 programme, ‘Stammering School’. Musharaf Asghar, known as ‘Mushy’, a 17-year-old with a severe stammer, was featured as part of the programme as he and others went on a McGuire programme course.
Earlier this year, BSA member Paul from Weymouth was featured on Channel 4’s reality programme ‘First Dates’, which brought more awareness of stammering into the limelight.
The trustees are indebted to all whose contributions are making the work of the Association possible. Our members have once again been very generous with their donations, and many have chosen to subscribe to the gift aid scheme which is becoming increasingly important.
A special thanks must go to our volunteers have been particularly important – they work in support of our Telephone Helpline, of data input, the Employers Stammering Network, financial records and accounting, Conference organising, Open Days, and fundraising, as well as the BSA Library and office support.
Stammering is very often a baffling condition. Treatment outcomes can be variable; prevention cannot be guaranteed; causes are, at best, speculative. As a condition, stammering is neglected in terms of recognition and treatment. And yet, we have the support of a group of regular charitable donors assisting the general work of the Association. Their enduring support is very much appreciated and we could not exist without them.
We are also grateful that our projects and plans find the support of charitable and statutory funders. It is through these projects that we can influence the work of organisations and professionals, whether in healthcare, education or in the employment field, thus aiding us in our mission to create a world that understands stammering.
The trustees would like to record their special gratitude to John Perkins who, for many years, has kept the Association’s books and prepared its accounts.
And finally, the trustees would put on record their thanks to our members for their interest and support. BSA is a membership organisation and we rely on them to sustain us, to inspire us and to support us with their time freely given.
A cashflow problem in the summer of 2014 saw the Trustees take decisive action to ensure the financial envelope on expenditure stays well below projected income for the foreseeable future.
This action reduced monthly expenditure to about £11,000, well within what we feel we can raise in terms of self-generated income and fundraising income. For the end of 2015 we now expect a surplus of income over expenditure.
As staff costs have been our largest expenditure item, there had to be some severe cuts in staffing to meet the expenditure target. The Trustees would like to express their thanks to BSA’s staff for their support and commitment they have shown over the past difficult months.