Irene Sobowale, Chief Executive
This year has again proven to be a demanding one for the Trust, as it has for many providers in the care sector. The pressure on public sector budgets has been relentless and this in turn continues to have an impact on the Trust's income. In addition, whilst costs imposed by central government such as autoenrol pensions, National Living Wage increases and the General Data Protection Regulation are encouraging news for our workforce, the changes have had a year-on-year effect on the Trust. We are fortunate to have a committed staff team and have continued to provide quality support for the people in our services. That said, recruiting the quantity and calibre of staff that we require to continue providing the high quality support which is at the heart of the Trust's purpose is an ongoing challenge. Against this background, I am therefore all the more proud of what the Trust has achieved during the year and the difference we have made to people's lives.
I was especially delighted that two of our services, The Woodmill, our brain injury rehabilitation centre in Devon, and our Sussex community autism houses - were judged as 'Outstanding' by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). This is, as I said to all the staff concerned at the time, the regulatory equivalent of a gold medal; only 2% of all CQC inspections receive this grade.
Elsewhere, I recently saw for myself the increased capacity of our brain injury service at Osman House in Leeds to accommodate 16 people with longer term needs, and we also opened our latest supported living scheme in Blackpool during the year. We have plans to extend our specialist services for people with a non-progressive acquired brain injury (ABI) at Eastfields in Glasgow and are working on a longer term project for a flagship service in York, given the success to date of our York House independent hospital for people with brain injury and mental health conditions.
Steve Howell, Chair of Trustees
The past 12 months have been amongst the most difficult for the Trust and although we had many successes, we also had to take the very difficult decision to close two of our services. We felt the impact of an increase in our operating costs as well as reduced demand for certain services as funders and commissioners made their own difficult decisions.
The Disabilities Trust is not alone in feeling this pressure - it is a challenging time for all service providers within the health and social care sector but on the positive side we are all well placed to take advantage of the opportunities that change inevitably brings. Our financial position is strong as is our asset base, the reserves are healthy and we have a talented team of staff working hard to modernise our service offerings and deliver the efficiencies that are fundamental to our future success.
In May 2017, the Board and Executive Team developed and agreed the Trust's 5 year strategy which will see us restructure our organisation; modernise and grow our autism services; refresh the way that we support people with brain injury; extend out service offering for children and adults with autism; and increase capacity in community services. Commissioners are keen that people are able to lead more independent lives and we know from experience how successful and fulfilling this can be for many of the people we support. There are opportunities for us to invest directly in new services as well as partnering with others and we are redefining our Board committees to ensure that we continue to invest prudently, but also that we can act quickly and decisively where the need arises.