Chair’s report to the LASSN Annual General Meeting, January 2015

On 9th January 2015, LASSN held its Annual General Meeting, and said goodbye to Christine Brett, who had been on the board of Trustees for 6 years, and 5 as Chair.

Here is a copy of her notes, for those who were unable to attend in person – which we post with thanks, appreciation and best wishes for the future

LASSN Annual General Meeting, 9th January 2015

 Chair’s Report

This will be the last time I stand here to present the Trustees report and accounts up to 31 March last year to our members and supporters and also when we talk about what has happened since our last AGM.

All members should have received a copy of the Report and Accounts and all of you can I trust see a copy and take it away.  This is our public record and is sent to both Companies House and the Charity Commissioners.

Kentigern, our treasurer will speak in more detail about the financial statements and answer questions! As Chair I will take any questions you may have on the report of the Trustees.

In fact the Annual Review with the owl on the front gives the highlights of the crucial work that is done by LASSN and the achievements for the year.

Inevitably the Annual Report is an historic document so the AGM is also an opportunity to include a review of the year so far.

Leaving is an opportunity for reflection and I’ve looked back over my notes for previous AGMs.  There have been common threads.

Our Mission to meet the needs of asylum seekers and refugees in Leeds and raise awareness of issues facing them is unchanged and has been the driving force for everything Trustees, staff and volunteers have done.

So positive reflections:

  • LASSN’s achievements and the difference made to the lives of those asylum seekers and refugees we have supported. This cannot be over-estimated and the sadness is that we have not been able to do more.
  • The overwhelming enthusiasm of volunteers. Without them, LASSN would not exist.
  • The dedication of Trustees and staff
  • The resilience of LASSN in facing year in year out financial difficulties
  • The courage and fortitude of asylum seekers and the determination of refugees
  • Milestones including 10 years as a Charity and our 1,000th volunteer

Sadly however an equally common thread of my 6 years as a Trustee has been that of challenges faced.

  • A hostile environment in which we work
  • A reduction in funding streams with more charities applying for shrinking pots
  • A reliance on grant aid
  • Shrinking reserves – built up largely through the generosity of individual donors and supporters. We were able to use them to maintain services and help ensure LASSN survived where many others had to close or reduce services)
  • The necessity to issue notice of redundancy to staff with regularity that showed we were increasingly in an unsustainable position.

Last year we were able, as in previous years, to rescind the notices of redundancy but Trustees and staff, when I spoke with them individually agreed we could not carry on in this way.

So we undertook a review of:

  • how we deliver our services,
  • how we resource aspects of our work,
  • how to ensure we continue to provide excellent much needed services,
  • how we could demonstrate to potential funders that we provide really good value for money

It was soon apparent that we were not competitive in bidding for funds because our core costs were too high.  Funders look for core costs of 15 to 20%; ours were 30 – to 40%.  We had over capacity in finance and administration at a price we could not afford.

When we were faced with yet another shortflow in cash flow that necessitated redundancy notices, earlier this year we implemented them.   We said goodbye to Richie McAndrew, our longest serving staff member and to Mas Lai.

I cannot over emphasise how difficult this decision was for trustees to take.  Richie and Mas were very valued members of staff who worked hard and conscientiously for LASSN.

Organisations, just like individuals, can grieve and LASSN (staff and Trustees) has been grieving since Mas and Richie left.

But we coped – we remained steadfast in our belief in the need for LASSN’s services and determined to ensure that LASSN survived.

Staff carried on with their work.

We recruited a new team member, Andrew Crossley, who is here tonight to provide essential financial and administrative support.

Jon Beech, our Director who has now been in post a year and certainly did not envisage having to oversee a restructuring of the charity has demonstrated tremendous resilience, skill and care in the dual requirements of his role as team manager and providing support to the Trustees.

Above all our volunteers continued to give unstintingly of their time and skills to support the very vulnerable people needing our services.

Trustees are all volunteers with a particular responsibility – they have, and must accept, ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of a charity, and ensuring that it is solvent, well-run, and meeting the needs for which it has been set up.

I have been very fortunate to have such a talented, committed, idealistic team of Trustees and they have my heartfelt thanks

Whilst we feared at one time earlier this year having to cut back further in staff and therefore in the services offered we have been able to offer all staff an employment package which maintains all the posts with their existing hours and salary.

I am very pleased indeed that this has been accepted.

In conclusion it has been a huge privilege to serve LASSN.

Christine Brett

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