The Abingdon Bridge



19 Bridge Street, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 3HN                     Tel: 01235 522375
                                                                                                Registered Charity Number: 1160080

2018-19 Annual Report from the Trustees

I am pleased to report our reputation in the local community as an agency which responds to the challenges facing many young people is now well known; and we have received an increasing amount of support from local churches, town and parish councils, local  organisations, businesses, individuals and charitable trusts. It was a very special honour last year to receive an Award as the Best Charity in the Vale of White Horse.

 We were also thrilled when our Manager, Gary Hibbins, received an Award from the High Sheriff, Richard Venables, earlier this year after having been nominated by his colleagues. This provides me with an opportunity to thank all the staff for their dedication and thorough professionalism. The work that they do is not easy and doesn’t always come with immediate results. What is impressive, however, is that it is transforming the lives of so many young people in the area. They help them to raise their aspirations, to accept that they may have made some mistakes but to encourage them to show a determination to improve their lifestyle, to enhance their self esteem and their general well-being. Too many young people are suffering with mental health issues and the work of the staff at TAB in this area is seriously impressive. There is no doubt that the impact we now have would not have been possible had it not been for the inspirational leadership demonstrated by our Manager, Gary Hibbins. Your award from the High Sheriff is very well deserved and we warmly congratulate you.

Statistics: The trustees have been keen to improve the way in which we collate and use our statistics. After a period of evaluation, I am pleased to confirm that we have been using a new database entitled Views which has enabled us to not only record our contacts with clients accurately but also provide an indication of our impact and effectiveness. This is always a challenge for any organisation dealing with confidential issues but we are confident that our new system meets our needs. We are particularly grateful to one of our volunteers, Howard Spencer, for leading on this.

Financial Support: Our funding from BBC Children in Need enters its final year in September 2019. This funding (£86,850 over 3 years) has provided a secure basis for our counselling work and has enabled us to make the additional staffing appointments. We knew that our task was to seek further funding to ensure that this work continues. I am pleased to report that our bid to The Big Lottery Community Fund was successful. This will provide us with over £220,000 over a 5 year period and is the largest single grant or donation which TAB has received. This will support all three strands of our work. 
What has become clear throughout this process is that we cannot rely entirely on national funding organisations. If The Abingdon Bridge is to thrive and continue to meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable young people in the area, it has to be supported by the local community in and around Abingdon. This is happening. The treasurer will provide further details in his report, but I am able to inform you that The Abingdon Bridge is now in a significantly better financial position than it was three years ago. Whilst this will allow us to expand and develop, there are some major challenges ahead which will require some significant support.

 TAB continues to receive significant donations from charitable trusts, local churches, local councils, schools, organisations, local businesses, as well as individuals. We are particularly grateful for the dedicated financial support we now receive from Christ’s Hospital as well as the support we receive from local businesses and organisations which adopt TAB as their Charity of the Year including Laithwaites Trust; Ability Matters ; Hinksey Heights Golf Club.

Premises: Finding suitable premises for our expanding work continues to be a major challenge. We have now established a Premises Group with a dedicated team of trustees and volunteers. Progress can be frustratingly slow but we are now more optimistic that we shall be able to provide a long term solution to this problem. This continues to be a priority and we hope to be in a better position by next year.

Trustees: TAB has been governed by a small but highly dedicated group of trustees who have all made a significant contribution to the work of the charity throughout the year. We have transformed our management structure into five committees dealing with Governance; Finance; Staffing; Client Services and Premises. This not only delegates responsibility amongst all trustees but also allows for greater involvement of the staff. The trustees now meet formally each quarter to receive reports from the committees and make strategic decisions on our future direction.

The Abingdon Bridge continues to transform the lives of young people who find themselves in challenging circumstances. This happens quietly, sensitively, and confidentially. We continue to focus on three main strands to our work: 

  • Healthy Lifestyles        

  • Counselling  

  • SMART (Social Media Anxiety Resilience Team) – now also incorporating concerns about online Gaming and Gambling.

 Not only have our staff and volunteers maintained our high standards in all these strands but our trustees have also used their skills and expertise to improve the professional way in which we operate. We are also working alongside other organisations so that we are seen as partners within the wider community. Examples include YOCO – Thames Valley Police – The National Citizenship Scheme.

TAB 25: Earlier this year, we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of The Abingdon Bridge. Throughout the year, we have been able to reflect on how TAB has evolved from a local drop in centre to becoming a centre employing experienced and well qualified staff to provide specialist support to meet the complex needs of each individual young person. We find that our services are being used by an ever increasing number of young people but also from a much wider geographical area. The challenge now is to continue to build on these foundations but to also look to the future with a clear sense of purpose and commitment.

QAVS: There was one person, however, who decided to mark our 25 years in a way which nobody associated with TAB was anticipating. Monica Lovatt has been a loyal advocate for TAB from those early days. She understood more than most just what a vital service it has provided. Last year, in her capacity as Chair of the Vale of White Horse district Council, she submitted an application for volunteers at TAB to be acknowledged and recognised by the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service and was supported by Nigel Warner, the Town Clerk, and by Rev Dr Charles Miller, the Team Rector at St Helen’s Church.  Now those of you who are avid readers of The London Gazette will know that on Sunday 2nd June 2019, it was announced that TAB, along with five other Oxfordshire organisations, will be presented with the QAVS by the Lord Lieutenant at an event later in the year. However we did not want to let Monica’s efforts go unnoticed, so this evening I would like to invite Monica to receive a token of our appreciation. 

Finally may I therefore add my personal thanks to all who have enabled The Abingdon Bridge to thrive throughout the last 25 years but particularly during the last year. 

Chris Bryan
Chair of the Trustees                                                                                                                        June 2019