Last week the Brighton Argus had a very sobering article about the crises that charities in Brighton and Hove are currently facing. Amongst others, the article focused on the difficulties being faced by the Martlets which had to close its Day Hospice last October. When an organisation as highly respected and valued as the Martlets is facing difficulties, then it means it is really tough out there.
Each week I hear of charities in Brighton, Eastbourne and Hastings that are facing unprecedented challenges. I was quoted in the Argus article as saying: “There are a lot of very worried people out there. I would expect one or two dozen groups to close over the next year and many of those that employ any staff will have to let them go. There will be a huge change over the next decade in the way these groups work and what is expected of them.”
The challenge for organisations such as BHT is how we engage with those smaller organisations whose future is so uncertain without being seen as predatory. So much good work is being done by so many organisations and individuals, and it must be almost unthinkable to consider losing ones independence. I know because that is the situation BHT faced a number of years ago.
I regret having to say this but I think that many smaller charities will be forced to merge with larger ones in order to ensure that the services to their beneficiaries survive. After all, ultimately that is the most important consideration.
An example of this is when the women’s counselling service, Threshold, became part of BHT. We were able to respect their ethos, and protect the women only services provided by women with famale management. The service is still known as Threshold although you will find on the back of its leaflets, in quite small print, the words “A BHT Project”.
I am aware that there are people who regard organisation such as BHT as predatory. We really don’t want to be seen like that and we do everything we can to avoid acting like that. However, we have to look at the interests of the vulnerable men, women and children who depend on services and ensure that the organisations providing these services do not disappear overnight.
I would urge groups that are struggling to look to organisations like BHT and others to see how we can best face the future in very challenging times. Trustees and managers in these organisations must not leave it too late. The earlier we can talk the better the outcome should be for clients and staff.