This Trustees’ report and the financial statements have been prepared in accordance with the “Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) – Accounting and Reporting by Charities (2005)” as revised in May 2008, and the Charities Act 1993, as updated by the Charities Act 2006. This report gives details of our work throughout the UK.
There is no doubt that this has been a very tough year across the charity sector. This makes us even more proud of some of our fantastic achievements during the year, but along the way we have had to make some hard decisions. These decisions have been made with our overall vision and the needs of blind and partially sighted people at the forefront of our mind. Through the services and campaigning of RNIB, the local services of Action for Blind People and Cardiff, Vales and Valleys and the specialist services of National Talking Newspapers and Magazines, we remain totally committed to delivering our group strategy: stopping so many people losing their sight unnecessarily; making sure the needs of people are better met at the point of diagnosis; supporting people who have lost their sight to lead full and independent lives; improving the support available to people with sight loss and complex needs; and influencing service providers, industries and government to make the world a better place for people with sight problems.
Although it has been a challenging year and we are preparing ourselves for an even more challenging time ahead, we have still managed some remarkable successes. The development of our school in Coventry has made great strides and is due to be fully operational by the autumn of 2011. The state-of-the-art school and children's home offers education, care and therapy to children with sight problems and complex needs. This year the school was renamed RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning in recognition of the fantastic support we have received from the Pears Foundation.
It is now more important than ever that we continue to provide the services that are so vital to the lives of so many people, such as our information and membership services which dealt with almost half a million enquiries this year, giving people with sight problems the support and advice they need. We sent out over 1.7 million audio books enabling blind and partially sighted people to carry on reading after losing their sight. We also continued to develop new and innovative solutions to improve peoples' lives, such as our work with Goodmans to develop the first talking set-top box which will enable people with sight problems to more easily reap the benefits of digital television. The "Smart Talk" set-top box is now available and in February 2011 won a Which? "Best Buy" award.
11 April 2011 was a landmark day for blind people. It was the culmination of more than four years of some of our most successful campaigning, which led to people with a severe visual impairment becoming eligible for the higher rate mobility component of the disability living allowance (DLA). This meant that around 23,000 people would now be eligible for more than £30 a week extra to help them cope with the additional costs of living with sight loss.
But unfortunately now is not the time to sit back and celebrate our success. The Welfare Reform Bill currently going through Parliament and the cuts to local authority services, will, if they remain unamended, have a devastating impact on the lives of many blind and partially sighted people. A reduction in out of work support will make it harder for people to find employment, and restrictions in access to sight saving treatments could mean people losing their sight unnecessarily. As we set out on 2011/12 we are absolutely determined to do all we can to influence a change of direction and minimise the impact these reforms could potentially have.
The large reductions in local authority spending budgets will also have a negative impact on the services we are able to provide. This year we celebrated the 75th year of our Talking Book Service. This vital service enables people to carry on reading when they have lost their sight. Many of the 38,000 subscribers have their subscriptions to the service subsidised by their local authority. But this by no means covers the full cost to us of providing the service, and without this we will find it difficult to continue providing the service to blind and partially sighted people in the way we are currently able to. Frighteningly we are already seeing signs of local authorities withdrawing this support. We are tremendously proud of the fact that our fundraising income has held up well this year and because of downward trends in local authority spending, it is going to become more and more important in the years to come.
At the end of the year we went live with an internet film campaign called "I'd miss" which told the story of Alexia and how she would miss out on the joys of reading if it were not for us. The film has been a fantastic success and has really brought home the potential realities of living with sight loss and the difference RNIB can make, to the 100,000+ people who have already seen it.
We would like to end by saying thank you. None of our campaigning successes or the vital services we run would be possible without the fantastic contribution of our volunteers, donors and staff. Thank you for your vital support - it really does make a huge and lasting difference to the lives of blind and partially sighted people.
Kevin Carey, Chair