Annual Reports 2015

Committee’s Report.

Yet again, we are delighted to hold our Annual General Meeting as guests of the Springbridge Carriage Driving School. We have always found the Springbridge management and staff to be outstanding and willing hosts, who make every effort to meet our needs and provide us with such excellent accommodation and lunch.  Those of you who have the requisite technical skills, can all set your satnavs to this location, for as long as the management will hav Following each A.G.M., your committee members discuss what took place and we try to learn from it.  Today, as an experiment, we have decided that the reading of our report will contain a number of opportunities for the membership to comment, or produce ideas on a topic, immediately after it  has been touched-upon.  We believe this will result in everyone present, being able to take an active part in the affairs of the meeting and give us your views and opinions on the subject-matter.   You will no doubt recall that, during 2012 and 2013, some of your committee members made contact with the management of the private prison establishments, G4S, Serco and Sodexo.  They had assumed control of quite a large segment of the prison estate, including a number of places where we had worked successfully, with very active PSCF members.   Our initial negotiations with the private companies seemed quite positive and we told you that we would work hard to gain their confidence and urge their staff to join the PSCF.  Sadly, our communication with these people never got beyond the inaugural meetings.  Their apparent and clearly stated readiness to work with us came to nothing and it became obvious that we were wasting our time.  It will, of course, mean that a large number of potential members will be lost to us. We shall have to reconcile ourselves to the facts and concentrate our activities on our energetic members in the Public service.   During the latter part of the year, the management of some of the private prisons have suffered unwelcome publicity and media attention. Therefore, with the benefit of hindsight, our decision to cease contact with them may well have been quite fortuit We were somewhat taken aback in June, when we heard that all Prison Department Works units were to be contracted to the private sector.  This has now been fully implemented, with the result that Works staff are no longer part of the NOMS pay system and all the monthly PSCF subscriptions we received from them have now ceased.   Historically, whenever we have lost our members’ monthly subscriptions due to privatisation, those members involved have proved reluctant to continue donating to us, by entering into a standing order through their Bank. On each occasion, there seems to have been a mistaken assumption that their association with us, has somehow, diminished.   On this particular occasion, apart from some Works staff at Frankland and one at Whatton, we have lost a considerable number of good, long-term members.  We have Representatives at a number of establishments, who may be able to rectify this problem, by speaking to their Works staff and explaining how they could use the standing order facility and retain their membership.  This would, of course, also enable them to continue to seek our help towards any fundraising in which they may take part, in future This does not really seem to be an appropriate topic for our discussions today, but if anyone can come forward with any other helpful suggestions, please contact a committee member; we will be glad to hear them.       Over the past year Ken has again persevered and at last has got the staff at the TrainingCollege “Newbold Revel” to assist him in his presentation to the new recruits to the service. This is still our main avenue of recruitment although with the competition for their membership of other facilities such as the PSSA, CSBF and of course the POA he has worked tirelessly to boost our membership with consideration to the fact that the new pay for the POELTS is now lower than it has ever been, charity donations are obviously a low priority. I am sure Ken will carry on his recruitment in 2016.  We have also received fantastic support from our representative at Manchester who recruits new members for the fund on a regular basis. This is vital to the fund given the loss of the works staff members and early retiremt last year’s AGM, you may remember that we discussed a number of requests for financial help, which we received from staff who were not PSCF members. In an attempt to dissuade such people from seeking help to which they were not entitled, our member Lindsay Davidson reminded everyone that our ability to give financial aid to any U.K. charity depends entirely on the monies donated each month, by our contributing membership.           With the agreement of all present, it was decided to put in place a rather more definitive system, which would countermand this problem.  This now means that any non-member who makes such an appeal for funds may, on the first occasion, be granted a limited amount of financial assistance towards their cause.  He, or She, will then receive a letter from our secretary and an application form, inviting them to become a PSCF member.  They will be advised of our ruling and clearly told that the success of any future requests from them will depend on them becoming members.  Our subsequent research has shown that, in spite of this very clear advice having been given, few have heeded it.  As an example, Bob sent membership application forms to four members of staff we had helped at one northern prison, but he rece review of the appeals which we received during 2015, has shown that a remarkable number of applications were for financial assistance in aid of well-known, major national charities.  Perhaps understandably, most of these appeals were for cancer related organisations and we understand how important these can be, to all of you.  You will no doubt recall, however, that this matter was discussed at our last AGM and we came to the conclusion that your committee members would need to be even-handed, when dealing with this problem.  There have been occasions, when the number of appeals seeking help for the national charities   could well have accounted for all the PSCF funding which was readily-available for a particular month.  Indeed, there have been times when several establishments have requested funding for, perhaps, only one or two large charities and it has been difficult for us to distribute the available funds in a fair manner.       You will all know that when the PSCF was founded, our declared aim was to help members of the public who were in need of medical treatment and/or medical equipment.  That statement formed part of our Constitution and it remains unchanged.   Nowadays, we are receiving far fewer appeals for this type of assistance to individuals, but it really must remain our priority-aim. We would be grateful if our establishment representatives could bear this basic need in mind and urge fundraisers to increase the proportion of needy individuals who are receiving our help.                

In May, we were invited to attend the POA annual conference, which was held at the Conference Centre in Southport . We had asked to attend this event, over a number of years, so we were delighted to be able to put in our long-overdue appearance.   Bob, John and Paul set up our large promotional banners and used all the available table space, to highlight the work and the valuable support we have dedicated to POA members, over the past twenty-five years.  Delegates attended from every establishment in the prison estate and, somewhat to our surprise, many of them seemed totally unaware of the support and encouragement we give to their colleagues, when they are involved in fundraising work.  We were able to speak to many of them and the majority took away a goodly number of our promotional artefacts. Clearly, it was a successful and very satisfying venture; you may be assured that we will make every effort to ensure our attendance at their future conferences.       Having referred to our promotional artefacts, we really must take this opportunity to express our thanks to the print shop team at Deerbolt and the industries at Frankland, for the very high quality items they so willingly produce for us, each year.   Many of you have expressed your pleasure on receiving them and told us how much you appreciate them.  Our grateful thanks are also due, yet again, to the son of committee member John, for the printing and assembly of our 2015 annual report.   The quality of the work he produces for us, is most impressive.       December 2015 began as a quite normal, unremarkable month for your committee, but a letter which we received from Prison Department headquarters as the year neared its end, soon changed all that. As the membership have probably gathered, our secretary, Bob, can best be described as a forbearing, somewhat philosophical personality, not one to be alarmed or discomfited by unhappy news.  However, communication from a Home Office official soon changed that; it had all the committee members filled with foreboding and contemplating the probable end of our charity.      We received a letter, telling us that with effect from the last pay-day in March 2016, the Home Office were withdrawing the facility for staff to make donations to the PSCF, direct from their monthly pay.  Given the quite impossible problems which we had previously faced, when large parts of the estate had been privatised, we knew that we would find it impossible to move even a small percentage of our membership onto a standing-order system. It certainly looked like the end.       Due to the Christmas holiday, we were unable to make immediate contact with the official who had written to us.  As you can imagine, the resultant delay only added to our doubts and fears for the future.  In due course, Bob spoke to a Mr. Peters at the Home Office, who displayed a very helpful attitude and said he would look into the matter.  He explained that he would not be able to allow us any special treatment, but he said he would clarify the situation and get back to us.     As promised, he telephoned Bob two days later, bearing good news.    Your committee members had been under the impression that the Home Office pay structure, as such, was responsible for the payment of all monthly salaries paid to prison service staff, but Mr. Peters told us that we were mistaken.  In fact, almost all the staff who happen to be PSCF members, are in fact, paid by NOMS.  Mr Peters said that the new ruling, therefore, will only affect some nine of our members, who are indeed, paid by the Home Office. He said he will write to each of these people and explain how the change will bring an end to their monthly PSCF donations and how they can open a standing order in lieu, if they so wish.         At the end of each year, the Charity Committee regulations require us to provide information to our accountants, giving details of all the financial transactions which have taken place during the period under review.   A signed copy of that information, without which we would be unable to ratify our financial status, is sent to the Charity Commission.       At first sight this would seem to be a simple matter, but it is not so. Every year, a number of our beneficiaries simply fail to acknowledge receipt of the donation which we send them, thereby creating a false figure in our accounts.   On other occasions, the recipients seem to forget that they have received our help and our cheque lies in their office, awaiting a reminder from us. In an attempt to overcome these quite unnecessary problems, we are now obliged to add a note to our covering letter, asking either our Representative or the recipient of the funds, to ensure that receipt of the PSCF cheque is duly acknowledged and processed without delay.   We ask all recipients to work with us and help us overcome this problem.        Early in the year, your chairman received a slightly unusual letter from a retired prison officer. This person had apparently been a member of the PSCF and she was seeking information about any entitlement her family members may have, towards her eventual funeral expenses.  We sent the lady a quite lengthy letter of explanation, but of course we could not offer to give any financial help in this matter, either to her or to her heirs and successors.           In October, we had a request for financial help from a prison in East Anglia, where members of staff were raising funds for the Royal British Legion.  We acknowledged the request and explained that, in accordance with our Constitution, any funding assistance contributed by the PSCF would have to be ring-fenced for medical treatment or medical equipment.  The reply which we received, simply commented “don’t bother”, so that is where the enquiry ended                It is with great regret, that we have to record the death of our longest serving representative, Ray Spoors, Ray was our hardworking Rep at Castington from the start of our Fund in 1989, until the time of the Sodexo take-over and the resultant formation of HMP Northumberland. Throughout his 26 years with us, He was always a very keen, proactive rep, where he also supported the staff at Acklington.  His main aim was to enhance the standard of life for many disabled children and adults within his North-East community; he spent many hours, and sometimes whole days, busking to raise funds for those less fortunate than himself.  He was a popular local artiste and much admired, by all.   John White attended Ray’s funeral on behalf of the PSCF. He was most impressed, both by the size of the gathering and by the number of people from local clubs and associations, who all spoke so well of Ray’s charity work.       At the request of Ray’s wife, Christine, the funeral collection fund was dedicated to two disabled peoples’ charities which Ray had supported.  John, as our official representative, presented a donation on behalf of the PSCF.                       Once again this year, the PSCF entered the Great North Run.  On this second occasion we were allocated ten places, but, much the same as last year, we again found it difficult to fill the placements with well-disposed and befitting  prison service entrants. Committee members John and Ken spent quite a lot of time working on the necessary arrangements and trying to ensure our venture would be successful, but in the fullness of time, the end-result was simply not  worth the effort.    If any member is interested in organising a PSCF team to participate in the run at any future date, John and Ken would be more than happy to help.   The Virgin giving site which Ken inaugurated, is still available for anyone wishing to use it on our behalf.       






          Treasurer’s Report   January 1st 2015 – December 31st 2015            

 At the end of this accounting period the fund shows a profit of £41,103 over the previous year, it is evident from last years figures that we have seen an increase of £867 from the last financial report, there are numerous reasons for this which are set out in this report.        During this financial year we received 201 appeals from 52 establishments, this figure includes one appeal from NOMS HQ and a total of four appeals from the regional offices. We also had two appeals from the POA executive to assist two major fundraising appeals from the midland region and Cronin House. We appreciate these latter appeals as we feel that the fund is being promoted at the highest level and wherever possible we attempt to maintain these links. Although this number of appeals is slightly lower than last year the number of establishments seeking assistance rose by Three to 52, some of which were new appellants to the fund and a few that we have not assisted for many years, the amount we have donated is considerably higher. The amount donated from the fund to assist staff reach their targets stands at £98,130 an increase of almost £7870 from the previous financial year.        As in the previous financial year (2014), considering the increase in appeals from the number of establishments contacting the fund it is fairly evident that fundraising at all establishments is in line with the general financial situation with staff and the loss of  many members through VEDs and retirement reducing staffing levels at all establishments.        The amount received from payroll in 2014 was £113,142-80; the amount received during this financial year (2015) is £100,543-45. A drop of  £12,599-35. This reflects the loss of membership mentioned in the above paragraph. As in the previous reporting period the department are now recruiting new staff and we are actively securing new members from the main training centre at Newbold Revel and establishments such as Frankland and Manchester where we have very       proactive reps         Over this financial year we have seen an increase from public donations as well as £350 received from retired staff paying from their pensions.  Members donating by standing order rose slightly over this period from the last financial report. These donations attract gift aid and will be claimed back as soon as we can finalise all the personal details required to fulfil the claims form. We also received £1892 including gift aid from five staff taking part in the great North Run this year. This amount will be donated to children’s charities in their respective regions.        With the change in government policy regarding the collection of gift aid, we now ask all new members who wish to donate by standing order or direct debit to complete a form with all their relevant details, these forms are sent to them at their respective establishments. This has been well received by the donors who have returned their forms to us quite quickly knowing that their donation will be boosted by gift aid.        Our investment portfolio generated a slightly higher return than 2014 rising only by £339, 44 in interest over this reporting period. As in 2014 the bank rates stayed at an all time low which has an obvious impact on our investments, in both the banks and building societies we deal with.   During this financial year there was a major change to the Financial Services compensation scheme due the volatility of the Euro against the Pound. This had a major impact on our portfolio as the FSCS reduced their safe limits for compensation from, £85,000 back down to its original level of £75,000 invested in any financial institution and all linked financial houses.   As we have stated many times over the years the committee are responsible to invest and safeguard the fund portfolio which meant we had to secure new investment opportunities within the new FSCS limits.     As in the past Nevill has spent many hours, days and weeks researching new building societies as most of the major institutions will not allow investment from charities, (we have never been able to secure the reason for their reluctance).   Quite a few of our investments will mature in January 2016 and we have now secured an investment agreement with the Hampshire Trust Fund and the Bath Building Society and will transfer any excess funds above the safety limit to secure the fund investment portfolio.        The low intest rates offered at present with our current account at HSBC as with many other banks is quite pathetic realising only £34-39 in this financial year ( an increase of £5-34 over 2014) .   Although we have to maintain a working balance we also appreciate that maintaining this balance would have an effect on our income if we did not quite often increase our portfolio with any outstanding amounts from this account, highlighting the need for new investment opportunities.              Overall I feel that we have had another successful financial year.             

Cathy                                                                                                        

PSCF Treasurer.