Report of the CEO – Sarah Marriott

Below is Sarah's report to the AGM, summarising the events of 2020 and 2021.

2020 was an unprecedented year for change. The Covid-19 pandemic brought about fundamental changes in how the whole world operated, how we live, work and engage with one another.

Alzheimer’s Support, and the staff and volunteers which make us what we are, have been truly outstanding in the way they have reacted and adapted to the demands on them. They have been brave and bold in facing the new challenges, innovative in how we maintain the service to our clients, and committed and dedicated to us as a charity.

We have led our sector in the speed to restart services, to provide thorough and comprehensive risk assessment, reassuring staff and clients alike that we acknowledge the huge difference we make to people’s lives, and our desire to meet that need in whatever way we could. Where we led, others followed. We have a very good reputation, are held in high regard by our peers and other providers of care. This is something to be enormously proud of.

Technology, previously something we skirted at the edges of, was now at the forefront. Zoom online sessions to provide some regularity of Community Services, WhatsApp groups in all departments to keep people connected, online fundraising events and donations appeals, – all were quickly adopted and used to great effect. The legacy of the pandemic will be our continued exploration into how we can best utilize and develop these opportunities. The silver lining of 2020!

The Annual Report gives more detailed explanation for departmental highlights, but briefly we:

  • Developed hybrid working for staff, so that they could continue to work safely, and maintain access to services for clients.
  • Moved to our new office in Trinity House, Trowbridge, in partnership with Wiltshire Citizens Advice.
  • Encouraged all staff and volunteers to take up the opportunity for early vaccinations, and subsequent boosters.
  • Provided 28,885 hours of care across Wiltshire from our Home Support Service. They remained dedicated to delivering this highly valued service.
  • Opened Day Care from July 2020 – months before anyone else offering similar service in Wiltshire. Members were grateful to return to the familiarity, and carers received their much needed respite. Grant subsequently got asked for advice from other providers as to how to best navigate this difficult process.
  • Delivered over 120 Zoom sessions for Community Services, allowing over 2000 people with dementia and their carers to connect and feel less isolated. We opened face to face groups in September 2020 – again the first to do so. Staff and volunteers took this leap of faith, and clients were very appreciative.
  • Developed a new online Training course for those diagnosed with dementia.
  • Dementia Advisers worked throughout the pandemic, providing continuous advice and support for hundreds of people. They were often the only source of help when other healthcare services were closed.
  • Increased our presence on social media by 11%, not easy given the age and technological awareness of many of our clients and their families.
  • Started the regular Staff Bulletin, providing organisation-wide communications to all staff and volunteers. This improved comms initiative continues.

The Annual Report finishes early 2021, but the remainder of the year has been as tumultuous. There have been some staff changes, including many senior management team changes.

The changes of 2021

Our CEO Babs Harris resigned, to take up a wonderful new opportunity at REME, and left in August. Her strong leadership over the 6 years she was with us has enabled us to expand and develop to be a major service provider in Wiltshire. We thank her for her hard work, her foresight, and wish her all the best in her new venture.

I will endeavor to follow her, and lead Alzheimer’s Support into a period of consolidation. I begin by focusing on staff, who are at the centre of all we do, and looking to reassure them that as we emerge from Covid, we are as committed and dedicated as ever to providing the excellent services we are recognised for.

Kate Sharpe replaces me as Head of Community Services, and is the natural successor. Having worked alongside me for six years, she has been involved in growing the department from seven groups a month to 44 per month in 2019. Her enthusiasm and charisma will see the department go from strength to strength.

Janet Sweetman, who was finally able to retire as Business Director in July 2021, is someone else to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude. She has revolutionized our processes in finance and left us in a much more professional situation than when she started. The expansion of recent years, and the complex accounting of furlough etc, has only been possible due to her careful guidance.

We welcome John Broomfield as Head of Finance and Business, and already he is bringing his wealth of business acumen to the role.

Sally Haddrell-Jenks resigned as Head of Registered Services to move into a commercial care provider job opportunity in July 2021. We wish her good luck in the future. She is succeeded by Monique Bentley, who has worked within Home Support Service for several years, and is the ideal replacement. Her ideas to streamline systems, and methods of collaboration with other services, will ensure that this award -winning service develops even further.

Grant Newton as Head of Day care, Steph Bardzil as Head of Communication, Engagement and Fundraising, and Diane Barkham as Dementia Adviser Manager, remain in post, and have been an invaluable source of support during both the Covid pandemic, and the last six months of internal change. Hugely respected by their teams, they are also fundamental to the ongoing success of Alzheimer’s Support with their networking and brand awareness activities.

Finally, I can’t finish without recognising the enormous contribution from our volunteers. By this I mean both the invaluable volunteers that enable us to run Community Services and Day Care, but also the Board of Trustees, in particular Janet Dore. The time and commitment they give provides sound governance and support.

The trustees have been incredibly supportive to me over the last six months. They recognise the need to re-establish links with all staff, and have been working to be more involved in services, and attending team meetings. This has been much appreciated.

Alzheimer’s Support is moving ahead to a bright future, and we have a strong and resilient team.