In light of the global Covid-19 pandemic, The Chamwell Centre Charity Trustees, wish to offer our friends and supporters reassurance of the Charity’s ongoing commitment to the completion of The Chamwell Centre project.
In these unprecedented times the Trustees are acutely aware of the significant impact this is having on donors and supporters and wish to extend their thanks for your continued support at this time.
Hopefully the following report, explaining the Charity’s current position and how we are managing this situation will clarify the situation.
Chamwell reached its fundraising target of £5.1 million for the capital appeal in December 2019. Construction work had commenced in February 2019 and was well on its way to meeting the scheduled completion date of March 2020, with the hydrotherapy pool due to open to The Milestone School after the Easter break and all facilities opening to school and the wider public by June 2020.
We were delighted to see the outside of the building looking wonderful, its wood, glass and stainless steel, glinting in the sun, with The Chamwell Centre sign already in place.
Inside, the pool already contained water and the café, soft play and other specialist areas were taking shape. Gas, electricity and water were connected, and everything was going according to plan.
By February 2020, the Charity’s fundraising focus had switched from capital to core funding and service provision. Planning was also focused on services to be offered and widespread consultations were taking place with School departments and potential outside user groups. Subcommittees were formed to draw up detailed plans, equipment requirements, staffing levels and timetabling for the many different aspects of The Chamwell Centre.
Job descriptions had been drafted for various senior positions throughout the Centre and plans were in place for many more minor posts to be filled by young people with additional needs on work experience and apprenticeships.
Unfortunately, on 23 March 2020, all construction work halted on The Chamwell Centre because of the Covid-19 virus epidemic and an interim Trustees meeting was held online on 27 March 2020 to review our position.
The earliest provisional date for work to re-start on the site is June 2020, which would mean that fitting and finishing of all areas could be completed, ready for opening to both school and public, around September 2020. Speller Metcalfe continue to insure the building and provide security, plus any maintenance needed during the suspension period.
The definitive managerial posts have been put on hold, so as not to encumber the charity with ongoing staffing expenses in the suspension period.
How we are continuing
Our Charity Administrator, Mandy Phillips, continues to work from home. Work continues in meantime on compiling timetables, policies and plan operations for the opening of The Chamwell Centre, as well as day to day administration and social media updates.
Consultant support for finance and fundraising will be reviewed, with as many tasks as possible being completed ‘in house’ by the regular staff and Trustees.
Subcommittees have been meeting to plan detailed equipment and operation of the various parts of the Centre and that will continue, as will discussions with focus groups and future stakeholders, albeit in a “virtual” setting.
The Charity finances and budget plan have been reviewed. Although funding is tight, if we restrict our current operating costs to the minimum as planned, we are confident that we shall be able to meet all ongoing costs and the final phase payments, due in September 2020.
However, we do have an urgent need to raise funds for specialist equipment and services. Since many of our potential users have no form of independent transport, we plan to fundraise for a wheelchair-adapted, electric minibus to transport clients to and from The Chamwell Centre. We also need equipment for specialist user groups, such as the therapeutic nursery.
Once The Chamwell Centre is open to the public, The Milestone School/The SAND Academies Trust will make a contribution for its use of the building in school hours. The Chamwell Centre Charity will commission all estate services and cleaning from The SAND Academies Trust.
Therapy services will be funded partly by income generated by The Chamwell Centre but we plan also to fundraise to be able to subsidise services to be offered to disadvantaged and chronically disabled people. We plan to use the suspension period to seek funding for such.
How we are managing our finances
We have carefully considered the impact of the Coronavirus on the Charity’s finances particularly the impact of the temporary closure of the site.
Our Independent Monitoring Surveyors, Evans Jones have inspected and reported on the development and provided a detailed cashflow. The asset remains under the control of Speller Metcalfe the contractor who has responsibility for Insuring and protecting the site until practical completion. Additionally, The Milestone School and the Charity Administrator are checking the site on a regular basis.
The Trustees have assessed the ability to continue as a going concern and confirm our cash position remains positive. We are in the process of updating our build budget and 5-year operational business plan, to ensure the long-term success of the Charity. Cash conservation is considered vital as our reserves limited.
In terms of future fundraising events, we hope to resume these as soon as it is safe to do so and hope to organise site visits in the summer, but these are likely to be restricted to one visitor at a time.
Finally, we have fully considered whether to apply for Government support including the Coronavirus business interruption loans, this is not considered appropriate, as we are likely to continue to be considered as ‘business as usual’. Our Charity Administrator continues to support Trustees, fundraise and develop services, working from home, therefore the job retention scheme is also not considered appropriate.
The Chamwell Centre is set to become a rich and exciting resource for children and adults with limited ability in Gloucestershire. Thanks to the strength of The Chamwell Centre Charity and the enormous dedication of all involved, The Chamwell Centre is able to weather the storm of the Covid-19 epidemic.
The Chamwell Centre will open its doors to the pupils of The Milestone School, as well as the wider community, as soon as restrictions allow, which is currently predicted to be in September 2020 .
Trustees and staff of The Chamwell Centre extend their very best wishes to everyone in these very challenging times. Stay strong & stay safe and we very much look forward to welcoming you all to The Chamwell Centre later this year.