Well, it’s been quite a year!!! Those of you who were at our AGM in 2017 will recall that Mark Adams and I were, at that point, job sharing the role of Chief Executive and had only been at Restore for a couple of months. At that time, we knew we had a lot to get done…………and now, a bit more than a year later, things have certainly changed and moved on. But you may have noticed that I am standing here on my own! Mark has recently left Restore, to spend more time with grandchildren and indulge his love of cycling, and I am now the sole Chief Executive. Mark had come to realise that he wanted to work less – whilst, happily, I realised that I wanted to work more! That being said, it was brilliant having someone to share the first 15 months with – plus I still sneakily phone him every now and again to bounce ideas around.
So, what has been happening over the past year………….
Our main priority a year ago was to address the tricky financial situation and to stabilise the staffing team. We set about working with colleagues to invigorate income from fundraising and sales, and to reduce expenditure wherever we could. We made changes to the management team, reducing the number of senior posts and realigning services to bring about a more balanced structure. This sort of thing is never easy, especially when it results in people leaving an organisation – and I want to take this opportunity to thank all the staff team in putting up with a lot of upheaval and change at the end of 2017 and start of 2018 in particular. So, did it work? Well, things are certainly much better – our finances and morale are now much improved, and we are very hopeful that we will soon be able to address the chronic problems we have had around staff salary. The structure is better, sickness is at an all-time low, we have a level of stability that Restore hasn’t enjoyed for some time. There is still a lot to do, but the corner has certainly been turned.
Highlights of the past year, in no particular order:
We’ve won some awards! Our founder, Peter Agulnik, won High Sheriff Award. Two of our amazing volunteers have won awards – Katie Dyer was runner up for Volunteer of the Year at the Cherwell Love Where You Live awards, and Angus Davidge received an OCVA volunteering award. Plus we came away smiling from the Oxfordshire Business Awards, where Restore was named as winners of the Charity & Community section. It’s great to know we are so well thought of!
Our Recovery Groups continue to flourish and go the extra mile for our Members. Whenever I get the chance to spend time in any of our Recovery Groups, it’s the conversations that I really value – hearing how staff, volunteers and – increasingly – other members really help people move forward with their lives. (You will hear more on this subject from members and volunteers later in this meeting). There has been some amazing work during the year, with new projects developed and powerful links to the local community made. For instance, you can now buy Restore products on-line, thanks to The Orchard recovery group in partnership with Cherwell Valley College and Sanctuary Housing. We hope to spread this across all recovery groups over the next year. You can also go to various pubs and cafes and see fruit, vegetables and flowers supplied by Elder Stubbs recovery group. Fleet Meadow folk are promoting self-help and peer-led support, which is really taking off. Hopefully, you will have enjoyed the joys of Garden Café and Beehive products at the Winter Fair here today. And, early next year, Littlemore Shop and Café will become the only catering outlet on the Littlemore Hospital site, if only whilst building work is going on. I’m sure you are getting the picture…….lots of very busy people, working very hard………staff, volunteers and members………….
We’ve also enjoyed numerous events during the year – Elder Stubbs festival, Cowley Road carnival, Fleet Meadow at the Wallingford Bunkfest, the Orchard at various events in Banbury, including the Celebrating Our Lives day which we led on for the Mental Health Partnership to showcase the work of all partner organisations and give our respective service users the opportunity to meet each other.
And the Recovery College – with a full staff team in post for the first time, the Recovery College enrolled its 1000th student earlier in the year and has now passed the 1,300 figure. The tutor team is busy developing new courses, with a suite of well-established favourites being delivered each term. Courses are now being run within the Forensic unit at Littlemore, as well as at various venues across Oxfordshire. There are new opportunities on the horizon, and our new Head of Recovery College, Stephanie Byrne, is keen and eager to take these forward.
Our Coaching team has flourished this year………..the focus is very much on making better links with employers and other relevant organisations, such as Aspire and making sure that people are given the chance of getting into work as soon as possible. All coaches are now specifically trained in an employment-focused model of working. Coaching is now spread more evenly across the recovery groups and we continue to be integrated with other services: our coach Mollie Huckin is embedded within the Early Intervention Service, and we hope to be expanding this way of working over the next few months if Oxford Health are successful in a funding bid that is going in soon. Our Opportunities Project with volunteer coaches going onto the wards at Littlemore and Warneford continues to do well, especially considering it is not funded! and we continue to attract new volunteer coaches, which is brilliant – though there is always room for more. We are exploring all sorts of other ideas to expand and develop our coaching team – we live in exciting times!
Mental Health First Aid and Working With Mental Health training – has grown steadily throughout the year, with new bookings coming in each week. Our trainer, Julie Field, will be joined by a new colleague early in 2019 to help keep up with demand. It is great to see how welcomed this training is by companies across Oxfordshire, as well as a wide array of staff, service users and volunteers from all organisations who make up the Oxfordshire Mental Health Partnership. As someone whose office is opposite our training room here at Manzil Way, I can attest to the positive feedback I hear from people at the breaks. Some very powerful and personal responses to an incredibly important subject – how we can help support the mental health of ourselves and others better.
Getting the message out about Mental Health, has been an important part of our work over the past year. We continue to see more and more in the media – not just from the Royal family, but a host of other people who feel inspired to share their own stories of mental ill health – some very strong messages which are really helping to challenge the stigmas that surround mental illness. At Restore, we are committed to challenge stigma where we can – and were pleased to be able to lead on a campaign about derogatory language as part of World Mental Health Day in October. We have also engaged politicians in hearing direct from Restore members about their experiences. Banbury MP Victoria Prentis, East Oxford MP Annaliese Dodds and County Council leader Ian Hudspeth visited Orchard and Elder Stubbs around World Mental Health Day. We’ve also been joining in the debate to challenge the great disparity between public spending on physical and mental health – this is a national conversation but one which is mirrored here in Oxfordshire. We have also been developing our links with harder to reach communities, with presence at Oxford Pride and the People’s Fair, holding our own Eid event in the Garden Café garden, and community engagement with the local population, hosting “Lazy Sunday” events here at Manzil Way. We want to do more of this…………….watch this space.
And, moving forward – we are now able to look to the future and think about what we might want to develop and do differently/better. We had a productive All Staff Meeting recently, where we started the session by drawing our Ideal Future Restore – with some very funny results. There were some strong themes – not surprisingly, each group firmly put our Members in the middle of their picture……….and there was a strong emphasis on the great outdoors (I’m not sure how we are now surrounded by mountains, and with herds of elephants and giraffes grazing by lakes and rivers………nor am I sure whether the Magic Money Tree does actually exist……….and I’m not sure about Rose’s helipad either………….)
Finally, I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to ALL of you – our supporters, colleagues from the Mental Health Partnership, staff, volunteers and (most importantly) members. I would also like to add personal thanks to all Trustees who have always been there for us. And, in particular, to give special thanks to Anne James who has given so much to Restore over the years and is stepping down as Chair – and we will be saying goodbye to her at the end of this meeting. And thanks to David Pittaway who has organised this AGM.
And now, over to 3 exceptional people who have agreed to talk today about how Restore has helped them.