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The BSA board of trustees (called General Committee), with Norbert in attendance, got together this month for their quarterly meeting in London. For some of us that means getting up at 5.30am to catch the train and be in our seats by 11am. Phew, just made it! My fellow trustees are a fantastic bunch with one aim in common - to help people who stammer. We take our job seriously and recognise the size of the task in hand. But we don’t take ourselves too seriously, so it’s a good balance! The trustees are mostly people who stammer and they come from all over the country. The aim is to have a board of trustees with a wide range of backgrounds, skills and experience.
What’s the point of the meeting? Well, we look at what’s been happening, consider what we would like to happen, and then decide how we're going to do it.
The law defines trustees as having control of the charity. In other words, they’re legally responsible. So in simple terms, it’s the job of the trustees to look after and nurture the BSA for current and future people who stammer. Many people probably think that the main task of the trustees is to oversee the finances of the charity to ensure that it stays afloat. Although this is an important aspect of the role it’s by no means the only one.
Part of our responsibility is to have a clear vision, or ambition if you like, of what we want the BSA to achieve. Then we have to decide how we’re going to achieve it. So there’s a good deal of thought, or strategic planning, that’s required. But we don’t operate in a vacuum and there will be all sorts of things going on in our environment that might influence our strategy, and we have to be alive to those. So the trustees are currently reviewing our vision for the BSA to ensure that the charity is doing all it can to help and support people who stammer over the next 5-10 years. As we’re a user-led charity your vision for the BSA is really important so we want to hear your views, too. As a starter for 10 here’s mine:
- for people who stammer to speak with confidence (stammering or not), so that they can enjoy life to the full, and make a greater contribution to society at large.
- for society to “get” that it’s what you say, not how you say it, that matters.
Please let me have your comments by the end of February - you can email me at email@example.com.
Back to the meeting! It was a very full agenda including an update on ESN from Iain Wilkie who kindly gave up his Saturday morning to be with us. We had reports on finance, the website, education, fundraising, Young BSA, social media, the National Conference, and Open Days. A lot of work goes into producing these reports, and I’m grateful to the staff and trustees involved.
I mentioned Norbert earlier in this post. Whilst it’s the job of the trustees to determine the policies and strategic direction of the BSA, it’s Norbert who has to implement those board policies. He’s the bloke who actually gets things done with the help of his part-time staff and volunteers, including Lee, Helen, Allan, Arifur, Cherry, and Mandy. Without Norbert’s commitment, hard work, and specialist knowledge not only would our vision for the BSA not be fulfilled, but also the everyday servicing of the stammering community would grind to a halt.
And so the meeting ended at 5pm. No time afterwards for a pint for me, sadly, because I had to get home for a birthday party. But by the time I got back at 9 the Abbot Ale tasted all the sweeter….
I was fortunate enough to sit in on a stammering awareness training session last week. It was run by Michael Turner, a person who stammers, and Christine Handsley, a speech and language therapist at Grimsby Hospital. The session was aimed at receptionists and others who are in patient-facing roles.
Michael himself is a beneficiary of speech therapy at the Leeds Stammering Centre, and it was there that the idea of training patient-facing personnel was born. A presentation was designed around a questionnaire/quiz and PowerPoint slides, and it was evident from the degree of participant interaction at Grimsby that it was a huge success. The receptionists left with a real understanding of the problems we face and an appreciation of how to respond to people who stammer, both on the telephone and face-to-face.
Michael stammered freely during the presentation, something that he feels is important in order to give receptionists an intimate feeling of what it's like to stammer. The same presentation by a fluent speech therapist, for example, would deliver the information but lack the same powerful impact.
What Michael is doing is hugely valuable because, as a direct result of his work, people who stammer will have a less stressful experience when visiting Grimsby Hospital. In addition to that, Michael says that his own confidence and self esteem have soared since leading the sessions.
Can we at the BSA encourage and support Michael's initiative in other areas of the country? Could it include any customer-facing organisation? These are questions I would like to discuss at the next BSA Trustee meeting in January. In the meantime, please feel free to contact me with any thoughts of your own.
At the AGM last week I had the pleasure, on behalf of the BSA, to present John Evans with a token of our gratitude and appreciation for his contribution to the BSA as Chair over the last three years. He deserves to sit back and enjoy the fine claret we gave him in the knowledge that the BSA is in a good position to build on the work of recent years. John's wise council and balanced advice, based on his Christian principles, have been a solid rock in what have sometimes been quite stormy waters. John's commitment to the BSA in terms of time and energy has been extraordinary. Few BSA members fully appreciate what he has achieved, but I suppose that is a reflection of John's modest and unassuming nature.
I'd like to thank the Trustees for electing me as their Chair, and hope that I can fulfil their trust in me. But we shouldn't underestimate the challenges we face. In short, we've got a big job to do in a climate of limited resources. The role the trustees play, in partnership with Norbert and his staff and army of volunteers, will determine how successful we are in that job. Ultimate responsibility for the BSA lies with the trustees. We have to ensure that the BSA has a clear vision, mission and strategic direction, and that the BSA is focussed on achieving these.
Everyone involved with BSA and ESN has a tremendous opportunity to effect change for the good in our society. With competent governance, firm financial controls, and the skill and commitment of Norbert and his staff, we can help people who stammer believe in themselves, enjoy their lives to the full, and make a greater contribution to society at large.
I'd also like to pay tribute to the two outgoing trustees, Colin Marsh and Mandy Taylor. Colin has been a devoted warrior for the BSA for over twelve years. He’s one of the most kind-hearted men I’ve met, dedicated to spreading understanding about stammering. We will miss his inimitable emails and his encyclopaedic knowledge of the hostelries around Bethnal Green.
Mandy’s enthusiasm is infectious. Her contribution to discussions is always lively and intelligent, and her willingness to get involved is an example for us all. She recently resigned her trusteeship in order to take up a part time job with the BSA as Finance Officer. And she's been invaluable in filling the gap between Steven and John Perkins leaving and finding a longer term solution.
So we thank them for their selfless input and very much look forward to their continued involvement with the BSA in the years to come.
It’s always exciting to welcome new trustees onto the Board, and the arrival of Rob Pinn and Jimmy Lang is no exception. We eagerly await their contribution in terms of new ideas, expertise, and enthusiasm. I know they will find the job of helping people who stammer a rewarding experience.
Some of you will already know me as Mandy from Northern Ireland. However, last summer I made the move across the Irish Sea and now live in Cheshire with my partner Pete and our four children.
I became a Trustee during a very difficult time at the BSA, a time in which we had to cut our staff hours even though demand for our services seemed to increase. However, funding was an ever prevalent issue.
During the last year we have lost two of our longest serving staff due to these cuts.
People are human and they needed more than the BSA could provide and two charities have now gained two very experienced, energetic individuals. As Trustees we wished them well with heavy hearts, but as ever, we look at what is best for them. So Steven and Julia, the very best of luck (not that you need it) in your new positions and I hope they also serve you well.
Steven leaving has left big holes, for membership services, for helpline work, for administration, and one in finance as he was responsible for recording all the monies in and out.
As this is what I do myself, being one of those accountant types, I was lucky to be in the position of offering a bit of my time and so I have now joined the staff for one day a week. Norbert is a hard task master, as that 8 hour day kind of expands and you do not even realise it! However, like every one of the staff at BSA, we are paid for a number of hours but the actual hours worked, well, we do it to give something back.
I am in a lucky position that I can work mostly from home, but I do get to go into The Big Smoke every few weeks to touch base. I obviously had to sadly resign as a Trustee and I will continue at present to do my 'day job' working for a marketing agency in Wilmslow.
So, yes, it will be my good self who now records the ins and outs, drawing up the finance reports and generally keep the Finance Committee of the General Council informed of how the BSA is performing.
So a change of direction for me, yet another path starting, and I look forward to working alongside Norbert, Helen, Cherry, Lee and Allan as well as the numerous volunteers who work so hard to give us all a voice. It was the BSA who helped me find mine and I am very proud that I can now help give something back.
Hello, my name is Amanda and I have been volunteering at the BSA office for four months. My main role was to update the National Database of NHS Speech and Language Services.
Before I volunteered at the BSA, I came across many individuals who had children/teenagers who stammer. Although I could sympathise, I could not direct them to an organisation that could help them. My role as a volunteer has taught me that information and services are so important, because so many individuals and families are struggling. Receiving the right information and direction can literally change your life: "small keys can open up big doors".
It has been great to see such a great support network for people who stammer, stammerers supporting one another, encouraging one another. The BSA are a family, and families stick together. This is important because of the isolation that many stammerers face.
I have personally been inspired by some of the individuals that I have met. Their stories have been encouraging, and speak of perserverance, and triumph over adversity. In my time at the BSA I learned a lot about people who stammer. Our stammers are all very different. However, we may have a lot of things in common such as
- hating making phone calls to people we don't know!
- speaking in public
- social phobias.
I have learned about discrimination in the work place through the Employers Stammering Network, and the different type of obstacles that we stammerers face. It has been an education, I thought I knew all there was to know about stammering, I was wrong!
As a stammerer, I feel blessed to have volunteered with the BSA, I have enjoyed it. It has been a priviledge to work with such a lovely team (Norbert, Steven, Allan, Lee ,John etc.) I would recommend coming to volunteer at the BSA, to help out in the office (maybe even taking over my role of updating the database). Not only will you be providing much needed help, but I believe you will be personally impacted by your experience, as I have.
Bye for now!
Today is just my second day in the role of Membership Manager for the Employers Stammering Network. I wanted to take the opportunity in my first week to introduce myself, to say how delighted and excited I am to be here and to thank everyone for the warm welcome I have had.
By background I am a linguist and a librarian, but I have worked for a number of charities and membership organisations, including the Association of Charitable Foundations. I've also co-ordinated projects that relate to supporting diversity and inclusion and managing cultural change. I am particularly interested in issues that relate to people, places and identity. This is my first connection with stammering, so I am looking forward to listening and learning!
I was looking for a new part-time job and first found out about the ESN Membership Manager role from Jan Logan, a speech and language therapist, previously at the City Lit, whom I know not because of her background, but because we have both been going to the same Tai Chi class for a number of years. It confirms my view that chance conversations can lead in unexpected directions!