(Committee and Staff Members photo taken in 2019)
Bute Advice Centre AGM December 7th 2020
It is a pleasure to have been asked to give a report providing a brief overview of the activities of the Centre since our last General Meeting.
Life has been very different for most of us during the last year, largely due to the effects of the pandemic which has swept the world. Coronavirus has had a profound effect on the work of Bute Advice Centre and has led to a vast upsurge in the numbers of vulnerable families requiring our help. This is illustrated by the figures from 1st April to 31st October this year, when 609 cases were undertaken by staff and the resultant client gain figure was £1,101,237. These gain figures help to bring a significant boost to the local economy, as a large proportion of the gains are spent locally.
Given our caution in respect of the finance required to operate the Advice Centre, it would have been very tempting to furlough the staff during the lockdown period which has operated nationally. This would have saved us substantial running costs, but the Trustees did not adopt this course of action – our services were needed by some of the most vulnerable sections of our community and we are proud of the success which our staff have achieved during that period.
It seems likely that the economic situation nationally will lead to another large upsurge in families and individuals needing the help provided by Bute Advice Centre.
During the period of lockdown, the Trustees took the decision to ask our staff to work from home, as far as was possible. The staff have adapted perfectly to this change and the high performance levels of the organisation are a fitting tribute to them. The Manager, Julie Semple, maintains daily briefings with all staff and ensures a smooth operational efficiency. As Chairman, my impression is that we have a happy, close-knit team who are dedicated to the work of Bute Advice Centre.
A large proportion of staff time is taken up guiding clients and assisting them through the complexities of the Benefits system. Our aim is to ensure that clients receive their full entitlement of State support. We also endeavour to help clients become financially independent, by assisting them to learn domestic budgeting skills, in order that they can better manage what may be a very limited family income.
One of the ongoing concerns for Bute Advice Centre relates to operating costs. I am delighted to advise that the Centre is currently in a financially stable position. Our Manager, Julie Semple, has excellent fundraising skills and has negotiated contracts which help us to cover our operating costs and also to maintain reserves, which are important from the viewpoint of an orderly wind down, should the Centre ever have to cease operation. These contracts are not gifts however, they have very demanding targets which we fulfil and even exceed. It is the case however, that we must never be complacent about running costs and Julie continues to maintain a watching brief on opportunities for finance.
The Centre continues to work closely with various partners, including Argyll and Bute Council, ACHA and AliEnergy. We continue to support the Refugee Resettlement Programme, administered by the Council and which is vitally important in assisting these families to adjust to life in the United Kingdom.
It is my privilege to serve as the Chairman of Bute Advice Centre and I welcome this opportunity to thank the staff, my fellow Trustees and the funders, all of whom help to ensure that the organisation remains at the heart of this community. In addition, my gratitude is due to the numerous other supporters who, in various ways, assist the development and successful progression of Bute Advice Centre.
Our primary goal remains to serve this community – most especially, the weak, the disadvantaged and the vulnerable.
Thank you for your consideration and your support.
Gordon W.M. Sutherland
Bute Advice Centre