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BBC Radio 4 In Touch
24th February 2009

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Factsheet

CHARITY FINANCES
The accountants Price Waterhouse Coopers predict a £2.3 billion shortfall in charity funding this year. Mani Djazmi looked at how this might affect organisations that serve the blind and partially sighted.

Peter White also asked Kevin Geeson, the RNIB's Chief Operating officer, what plans they have in place to mitigate against the affects of the current recession.

CONTACTS

RNIB
105 Judd Street
London
WC1H 9NE
Helpline: 0303 123 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
Web: www.rnib.org.uk
The RNIB provides information, support and advice for anyone with a serious sight problem. They not only provide Braille, Talking Books and computer training, but imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges. The RNIB campaigns to change society's attitudes, actions and assumptions, so that people with sight problems can enjoy the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities as fully sighted people. They also fund pioneering research into preventing and treating eye disease and promote eye health by running public health awareness campaigns.


THE GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND ASSOCIATION (GDBA)
Burghfield Common
Reading
RG7 3YG
Tel: 0118 983 5555
Email: guidedogs@guidedogs.org.uk
Web: www.guidedogs.org.uk
The GDBA’s mission is to provide guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services that meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people.


ACTION FOR BLIND PEOPLE
14-16 Verney Road
London
SE16 3DZ
Tel: 0800 915 4666 (info & advice)
Tel: 020 7635 4800 (central office)
Web: www.afbp.org
Registered charity with national cover that provides practical support in the areas of housing, holidays, information, employment and training, cash grants and welfare rights for blind and partially-sighted people. Leaflets and booklets are available.


CHARITY COMMISSION
Harmsworth House
13-15 Bouverie Street
London
EC4Y 8DP
Tel: 0870 333 0123
Fax : 020 7674 2300
Minicom: 0870 333 0125
Web: www.charity-commission.gov.uk
The Charity Commission are a UK Government organisation responsible to the Courts for their decisions and to the Home Secretary for the way they use their resources.


INSTITUTE OF FUNDRAISING
Park Place
12 Lawn Lane
London
SW8 1UD
Tel: 020 7840 1000
www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk
The Institute of Fundraising is the professional body for UK fundraising. They support fundraisers, through leadership, representation, setting standards, and training, and champion fundraising as a career choice.


READING GROUPS

2008 was the National Year of Reading – a government initiative to celebrate the values of reading. It culminated in the selection of 8 individual reading heroes, selected for their passion for books and reading, and who have been invited to Downing Street later this week.

One of them is eighty-two-year-old Joyce Peacock, the last surviving founder-member of what is believed to be the country's first book club specifically for visually impaired readers.

The programme also drops in on a reading group for the visually impaired in Basingstoke as they discuss A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

CONTACT

NATIONAL YEAR OF READING
www.readingforlife.org.uk


GENERAL CONTACTS

RNIB
105 Judd Street
London
WC1H 9NE
Helpline: 0303 123 9999 (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm)
Tel: 0207 388 1266 (switchboard/overseas callers)
Web: www.rnib.org.uk
The RNIB provides information, support and advice for anyone with a serious sight problem. They not only provide Braille, Talking Books and computer training, but imaginative and practical solutions to everyday challenges. The RNIB campaigns to change society's attitudes, actions and assumptions, so that people with sight problems can enjoy the same rights, freedoms and responsibilities as fully sighted people. They also fund pioneering research into preventing and treating eye disease and promote eye health by running public health awareness campaigns.


HENSHAWS SOCIETY FOR BLIND PEOPLE (HSBP)
John Derby House
88-92 Talbot Road
Old Trafford
Manchester
M16 0GS
Tel: 0161 872 1234
Email: info@hsbp.co.uk
Web: www.henshaws.org.uk
Henshaws provides a wide range of services for people who have sight difficulties. They aim to enable visually impaired people of all ages to maximise their independence and enjoy a high quality of life. They have centres in: Harrogate, Knaresborough, Liverpool, Llandudno, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, Salford, Southport and Trafford.


THE GUIDE DOGS FOR THE BLIND ASSOCIATION (GDBA)
Burghfield Common
Reading
RG7 3YG
Tel: 0118 983 5555
Email: guidedogs@guidedogs.org.uk
Web: www.guidedogs.org.uk
The GDBA’s mission is to provide guide dogs, mobility and other rehabilitation services that meet the needs of blind and partially sighted people.


ACTION FOR BLIND PEOPLE
14-16 Verney Road
London
SE16 3DZ
Tel: 0800 915 4666 (info & advice)
Tel: 020 7635 4800 (central office)
Web: www.afbp.org
Registered charity with national cover that provides practical support in the areas of housing, holidays, information, employment and training, cash grants and welfare rights for blind and partially-sighted people. Leaflets and booklets are available.


NATIONAL LEAGUE OF THE BLIND AND DISABLED
Central Office
Swinton House
324 Grays Inn Road
London
WC1X 8DD
Tel: 020 7837 6103
Textphone: 020 7837 6103
National League of the Blind and Disabled is a registered trade union and is involved in all issues regarding the employment of blind and disabled people in the UK.


NATIONAL LIBRARY FOR THE BLIND (NLB)
Tel: 0161 406 2525
Textphone: 0161 355 2043
Email: enquiries@nlbuk.org
Web: www.nlb-online.org
Trustees from the Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB) and the National Library for the Blind (NLB) have agreed to merge the library services of both charities as of 1 January 2007, creating the new RNIB National Library Service.


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (England)
Freepost RRLL-GHUX-CTRX
Arndale House
Arndale Centre
Manchester
M4 3EQ
0845 604 6610 - England main number
0845 604 6620 - England textphone
0845 604 6630 - England fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Wales)
Freepost RRLR-UEYB-UYZL
3rd Floor
3 Callaghan Square
Cardiff
CF10 5BT
0845 604 8810 - Wales main number
0845 604 8820 - Wales textphone
0845 604 8830 - Wales fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION HELPLINE (Scotland)
Freepost RRLL-GYLB-UJTA
The Optima Building
58 Robertson Street
Glasgow
G2 8DU
0845 604 5510 - Scotland Main
0845 604 5520 - Scotland Textphone
0845 604 5530 - Scotland – Fax
Mon, Tue, Thu, Fri 9:00 am-5:00 pm; Wed 9:00 am-8:00 pm (last call taken at 7:45pm)


DISABLED LIVING FOUNDATION
380-384 Harrow Road
London
W9 2HU
Tel: 0845 130 9177
Web: www.dlf.org.uk
The Disabled Living Foundation provides information and advice on disability equipment.




The BBC is not responsible for external websites 

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Transcript

IN TOUCH

TX: 24.02.09 2040-2100


PRESENTER: PETER WHITE

PRODUCER: JOE KENT


White
Good evening. Tonight: the growth in reading groups tailored specifically to the needs of visually impaired bookworms. And we'll be meeting a reluctant reading hero.

Clip
I always read, I used to absolutely dote on the library when I was a child. I used to regard it as a sort of place of paradise.

White
But first: we all now know that the effects of the economic downturn will permeate every aspect of society and the charities, large and small, which currently provide many essential services to blind and partially sighted people, are no exception. Amongst the effects are bound to be the shrinking of the job market, already tough for visually impaired people to break into, people looking more closely at their giving, allied to the ongoing problems of an ageing population putting increased pressure on support services such as rehabilitation, residential care etc. It's a potentially combustible mix and the accountants Price, Waterhouse, Coopers have predicted a deficit for charities of £2.3 billion in the coming financial year. So how the charities coping and what plans do they have to protect their finances and the level of service expected of them?

Well our reporter, Mani Djazmi, has been looking at three of the largest charities that serve us - the Royal National Institute of Blind People; Action for Blind People and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Mani, what's the picture?

Djazmi
Well let me start off by giving you an idea of their respective incomes. In the last financial year RNIB brought in ninety eight and a half million pounds; Guide Dogs had just under £72 million of income and Action's income was just under £20 million. They all seem pretty relaxed about things as we speak. The recession started too late to hit this financial year, which ends in a few weeks time, so it's the coming months when any expected impact is most likely to be felt. So they're adopting something of a wait and see policy. I've been speaking to Lindsay Boswell, chief executive of the Institute of Fundraising, which is the professional body for fundraisers in the UK and I asked him if this policy is complacency or calm thinking.

Boswell
I think those organisations that have got a good broad fundraising strategy, in other words their eggs are not all in one basket, and they've got a range of different asks - they've got a legacy approach, they've got possibly through a membership scheme engagement with individuals, they are acquiring and recruiting new donors in a range of different ways, they're talking to businesses, they're talking to major donors and they've got that broad strategy - those organisations are going to weather the storm better than most. Those organisations that are heavily reliant on one single area of fundraising really need to broaden their activities out.

White
So Mani, where is their money coming from?

Djazmi
Well let me give you an example of Action for Blind People, their income is derived from a variety of sources such as individual donations, legacies, corporate donations which unsurprisingly have dropped off across the charities board as companies tighten their belts and statutory funding, which is things like lottery grants. But speaking generally the biggest difference since last year has been the decrease in the value of legacies, which usually come in the forms of property or shares. People are still leaving things, it's just that those things are worth less today than they were a few months ago. Guide Dogs have also told me that they saw a 25% reduction in the number of responses from prospective donors in the autumn of last year, compared to the summer. Though in general the fundraising held up pretty well in 2008. I asked Keith Hickey, who's chief executive of the Charity Finance Directors Group to explain some of the major sources of income and how they're being affected.

Hickey
Clearly investments are looking sorry now with reductions in both interest and dividend income. We've seen clear evidence of corporates reigning back on the support they give to the sector. But other areas could be at risk. One of the major providers of income for the sector is the government itself, either from national or local government and clearly they're facing the same squeeze as other parts of the economy are feeling and they're going to be looking long and hard about their ability to pay. They're looking at clawing back public spending in two to three years time and that's going to have an implication on that source of funding. Charity trading by its nature is going to come under similar sort of dynamics as the high street is facing and as we go through the source of income one can see reasons why particular areas may be in difficulty.

White
So Mani, from your investigations how did the blind charities hope to weather any economic storms?

Djazmi
Well they all have reserves into which they'll have to dip over the next year or so and the general consensus among those I've been speaking to is that the key to success will be having a variety of income streams and possibly expanding current services to generate more income. Lindsay Boswell from the Institute of Fundraising also thinks the way in which charities approach the public will prove a decisive factor.

Boswell
We've watched the crisis of confidence that has occurred in the main economy and what we do not want to do is talk ourselves into a giving recession. I know for a fact that those three charities, working behind the scenes, are putting a huge amount of energy and effort into trying to make sure that their finances and their fundraising are as sharp as possible but at the same time giving out those messages externally that things are looking healthy and are looking good.

Djazmi
It sounds like, from what you say, that charities aren't necessarily going to be doing themselves that many favours by coming out and saying we've been hit or we think we might be hit by the recession we really need your money?

Boswell
If a particular charity has got a dramatic increase in need for its services then there is a very, very legitimate argument for saying exactly that. One or two charities might be able to turn round and run a campaign saying - Help, we're in crisis, we're about to hit a brick wall - but you can't do that for the entire sector and for every cause. You and I as givers are just going to run out of compassion and run out of steam if that is the case.

White
Lindsay Boswell, who ends Mani's report.

Well the biggest of the big three is the RNIB, they have an income, as Mani mentioned, last year of ninety eight and a half million pounds. Kevin Geeson is their chief operating officer and is with me. We're well over a year of course into the credit crunch, so I mean how is it affecting your finances already?

Geeson
I think it's fair to say that we're not affected too much in this current financial year, I think there's an understanding there's a lag between the real economy, if you like, and the impact on charities. And at the moment we're expecting to finish this financial year well against our budgets.

White
So what about the next few months, come April, when does this really begin to bite?

Geeson
Certainly we think that we're going to enter next year in a less favourable position, so we're going to begin to feel the effects of the credit crunch next year.

White
Mani, so far, I mean in his report concentrated on the revenue coming in but are you expecting an increase in demand for your services, you must be mustn't you?

Geeson
Yeah and certainly the most obvious of those impacts will be the employment market where we already know it's difficult for blind and partially sighted people to get jobs, it's going to get tougher for us to help people to get jobs and help people keep their jobs when people are looking to cut jobs in the market as a whole.

White
There's two ways of looking at that, I mean in a way if the jobs aren't there one might almost say is that the place to put your effort, I mean presumably what that means is people who have not got jobs probably have a greater need of a whole range of other services don't they?

Geeson
Yeah people need support regardless of their age and whether they're looking for a job or not and certainly we're looking to maintain the services that we have. And currently we're putting plans in place to make sure that due to the economic environment we're not having to have big impacts on the services we provide people.

White
When you say plans, what do you mean by that, I mean will we see any services disappear?

Geeson
What we're looking at is we aren't looking at a reduction in services because of the economic environment, in fact we're looking to take forward some of our ambitious plans that are in our new strategy but clearly we need to be cautious about taking on new things at this time.

White
Yeah because recently you've tended to style yourself anyway as a campaigning organisation, rather than as a service provider, a direct service provider, is that therefore a trend that we'll see increasing?

Geeson
I think there's still a strong case for us to do campaigning and certainly we need to keep doing that.

White
But does that mean that you'll be putting more pressure on people like local authorities and other statutory bodies to provide services which you might in the past have regarded as your responsibility?

Geeson
I think we always look to work with local authorities, PCTs and others to make sure that blind and partially sighted people get what they need. I think we all know that there's a gap between what people need and what they get, whether it's from us or from the statutory sector. And I think that campaign, if you like, continues regardless of the recession.

White
You've recently joined forces with Action for Blind People, not a complete merger but a lot of trying to cut duplication, will the tough economic situation - are we going to be likely to see more of this kind of thing?

Geeson
Certainly that's the mood of the sector and the Charity Commission are certainly making noises encouraging people to work together in collaborative ways be that merger or other ways, so certainly I think there are opportunities for taking the strengths from different organisations and coming together to do better - more for more as we say.

White
But more organisations actually joining forces, may be amalgamating?

Geeson
Possibly yeah, certainly possibly.

White
You wouldn't rule that out?

Geeson
Not at all.

White
Do people need to worry about services and the level of services and are you going to have to make a choice of priorities say between the population of elderly people, which I know is a policy point you feel you ought to do perhaps more for - that growing group - and other blind people - younger blind people?

Geeson
I hope not, I mean I hope that any strategy, when we launch it on the 1st April, make it clear what our priorities for the future are and we're also quite clear that we're going to continue to deliver that, irrespective of the fact that there's a recession. What we have put in place is a way that we can scale up and scale down our targets, so that when times are not so good we can scale back on what we do and when times are better we hopefully increase what we do.

White
Sounds like we might be talking to somebody again in April. Kevin Geeson thank you very much indeed.

Geeson
Thank you Peter.

White
Now 2008 was the National Year of Reading, a government initiative to celebrate the joy of books which culminated in the selection of eight individual reading heroes, selected for their passion for the written word and who've been invited to Downing Street later this week. One of them is 82-year-old Joyce Peacock, the last surviving founder member of what's believed to be the country's first book club specifically for visually impaired readers. We'll hear more from her in a moment but many clubs have followed the blueprint, including this one in Basingstoke, which met yesterday morning.

Book club actuality
Member
It had more effect on me than many other books I've ever read. Somehow I keep thinking about it, you know I can't stop.

Book clip
Cosmetics are forbidden, jewellery is forbidden. You will not laugh in public, if you do you will be beaten.

Member
It's interesting that, isn't it, because I think this happens time and again. The author is bringing us into their world, going on a journey into that particular world and the author's task is to create empathy with ...

McGuire
My name is Paula McGuire, I work for a Hampshire library and I've been involved with this particular Basingstoke book group for the last couple of years. The book we were doing today was A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, set in Afghanistan and it certainly made an impression on the group. The idea behind the reading groups is to bring the reading group experience to people who have suffered from sight loss and who can't access printed word in the same way as other reading groups do. An average audio book these days costs about £60. It's an opportunity for people to get together on something that is not to do with their sight loss and as we could hear from the discussion this morning it's also very much a social occasion.

Member
I think I felt I should not be enjoying this book really because it was grotesque, wasn't it, the treatment of women out there and to think it's happening to this day, that's the emphasis I put on it.

Member
Well I don't think we can get too smug in this country, can we, because when we think [talking over]... even up until the 1950s women we expected to give up their jobs when they got married ...

George
My name's Frances George, I've been a member of this group for about a year, I think. When you first start to lose your sight you begin to adapt to your surroundings, you learn such and such a number of paces more or less from sofa to the door and that sort of thing but you can't do anything about reading, so when I was introduced to tapes I thought well this is absolutely marvellous, I can still be in contact with good literature even though there's no way I can make myself read again. And this last book it grated a little bit, nobody else seemed to notice it but the reader would say - I wanna - I don't like the American - the child in the book was always saying I wanna something or other, ouch.

Book clip
Have you ever lived outside of your precious little shell in Kabul Michael? Every care to visit the real Afghanistan - the south, the east, along the tribal borders of Pakistan? No? I have and I can tell you that there are many places in this country that have always lived this way or close enough any how.

McGuire
Here in Hampshire with so many reading groups we feel that we are having an impression on the publishers of these books because they know they have a market in us, that we are going to be looking for interesting titles to do with our reading groups.

If we go round and we could have your score out of 10. Frances, what would you give it?

George
Well I would give eight.

Member
I would give it seven.

Member
I'm on a nine with Pam.

Member
I think nine as well.

White
The cut and thrust of the lively Basingstoke book club. Well last night I met Joyce Peacock at her home in Winchester. Joyce has glaucoma and is now almost totally blind.

Peacock
I've taken a long time to lose my sight, it's been 10 years. Up till that time all my pursuits, well most of my pursuits, were physical - rambling, Scottish dancing and exercises, I really did pursue them, I used to put my heart and soul in them. And when I lost my sight I was devastated because all of those were just taken from me. So when I found my one enjoyment of reading books, and I've always enjoyed reading, was enhanced by audio book reading it made all the difference in the world to me. I hesitate to use the word founder because people think I set the group up and I did not, it was Mick Coe, the access services librarian who set it up 10 years ago in Winchester and I don't know if you know it is the first in the country for the visually impaired. I've attended every meeting over the 10 years since.

White
And this is how you have the status now of a reading hero.

Peacock
Well I suppose that's most of the citation. We've debated over 50 books, they've covered a wide area and the further enhancement has been able to debate this common subject with people of a like interest.

White
There must have been a period at the time when you were first losing your sight when you were worried that you would lose reading?

Peacock
Oh yes, when I say I was utterly devastated that was hardly hyperbole or over the top. I really thought oh all of it's finished, you become enclosed in a world of introspection if you like.

White
How would you compare the experience of reading print and having the book read to you?

Peacock
It gives you an extra dimension, well it depends on the reader of course, they're usually retired or resting actors, actresses. Now there's Rula...

White
Lenska?

Peacock
Yes thank you ...

White
So you have favourite voices?

Peacock
Well one or two. I don't like really the word favourite because I always think there are others you don't know about.

White
Who are your favourite authors?

Peacock
You see you're using that word favourite again. Can I just tell you some of the books we've done? We've done Beloved, This Small Island, and the lovely funny one - hugely funny - A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine. Currently we're doing the Other Boleyn Woman, which I understand they've just made a film of.

White
A lot of blind people sometimes are frustrated by abridgements, are you ...

Peacock
Oh we don't do abridgements, we don't do abridgements.

White
So how would you describe the role of the club in your life?

Peacock
Oh ever so important, it's the one positive, the one thing that keeps me going really. It's where I really get to know the people I meet. My friends now, that look me up, that used to know me before I lost my sight, we talk on parallel terms because it's their life and my life, if you know what I mean, which are totally different - they don't know what it's like, sort of thing. Oh I don't half feel pathetic but you know what I mean. I really get to know them in the book club because you give away half yourself when you talk about your opinions on things, don't you really.

White
Joyce Peacock. Sadly Joyce has decided that she's not well enough to go to Downing Street on Thursday but nonetheless we congratulate her, she doesn't think she's a hero but I reckon she probably is.

That's it for today. We welcome your comments and your queries on 0800 044 044 or of course via the BBC website, go to the BBC, then to In Touch. And there'll be a podcast of today's programme as from tomorrow. From me, Peter White, today's producer Joe Kent and the team, goodbye.

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