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Our finances: how we got here.

2020 has been a challenging year, for all of us. As we’ve mentioned to you before, the coronavirus crisis has dramatically affected our financial position and has meant that we’ve had to face up to some really difficult choices.

We expect our income to be £10Million less than we anticipated in our budget this year and £5Mil less in 2021. And the outlook in 2022 and beyond is still uncertain.

In order to accommodate this sudden reduction in income and remain sustainable in the long-term, we need to reduce our costs by £4Mil annually. Given the level of savings required, we’ve had no choice but to look for possible expenditure cuts in all areas of our organisation and make appropriate changes. Our guiding principle throughout has been to minimise the impact on our MS community.

How we look after our finances

Whilst the impact of the pandemic has been huge on our organisation, we entered the crisis in a good financial position.

Our Board of Trustees are all volunteers and all have a personal connection to MS. They have collective responsibility for ensuring we are well managed as a charity and for our financial performance. They are helped in this duty by our Audit, Risk and Finance Committee, which is made up of trustees as well as independent members who volunteer their time to provide their specialist finance skills. They provide in-depth scrutiny to ensure our financial and risk management approach is appropriate, and challenge the Executive so that they can give the Board assurance that decisions are being based on sound information.

Together, through the Board, the Audit, Risk and Finance Committee, our staff and the finance volunteers in the groups, we manage our finances well. Striving to make sure the income we generate through so many dedicated supporters is spent in the most cost-effective way and that we get the best value for the MS Community. It is because of this, we are still here now to serve the needs of our community despite being hit hard financially by the crisis.

Hard choices

Having said that, we cannot become complacent. And as the global economy struggles, we know we’ll be operating in a difficult financial environment for a long time to come. At a time when there is a great need for our services within the MS Community.

Looking at our three year financial outlook, we predicted that we’d need to make £4Mil in savings each year to bring our finances back in line. We have no choice in this matter if we want to survive to support those with MS in the long term.

We looked across the organisation to find where we could make changes to cut our spending. In doing so, making sure we minimised the impact on the MS community.

Initially, we focused the possible savings on those activities and functions which do not directly affect our community. But given the scale of savings required, we had no choice but to go beyond this and look for savings in our community facing activities and functions. Here we have made the best judgement we can about what the “least worst” savings opportunities are.

This is not a position we ever wanted to be in and the choices we’ve made have been difficult. We very much regret the impact this will have for people in our community, our wonderful volunteers, and fantastic staff. We also recognise the speed we’ve had to respond at has been very difficult. However, we don’t believe we would have been serving our MS community well if we had shied away from these decisions.

Some of you highlighted in your feedback to our recent consultation that you wanted to understand more about our finances and how we came to making the decisions we have in the recent change. We’ve developed a briefing note with some more detail around our financial story which you can read here.

Where do we go from here?

As mentioned in Nick’s video (watch the video here), we’re looking to create a volunteer advisory panel to offer insight and input into the running and development of our volunteer groups going forward. The panel will invite feedback from volunteers on key decisions which affect groups. We are committed to reviewing how things are going in 12 months’ time, which this panel will lead on, and to making adjustments, where possible, if things aren’t working as well as they could.

This really has been an incredibly difficult year so far, and the last few months especially so, for all involved. As we said last month, it will take some time as we go through the process to bring these changes into effect, so for now nothing will change with the way volunteers are supported. We’ll keep you updated as new teams get settled, and as always please do get in touch if you have any concerns.