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Charity brings in expert to take ‘long, hard look’ amid cash problems

PUBLISHED: 11:20 19 March 2020 | UPDATED: 12:58 19 March 2020

Norwich's St Edmunds Society trains young people in skills like construction. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Norwich's St Edmunds Society trains young people in skills like construction. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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A leading Norwich charity has brought in a consultant to take a “long, hard look” at its finances.

Former Chelsea footballer Dennis Wise, front right, presented a minibus to Lorraine Bliss, chief executive of the St Edmunds Society, in 2018. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYFormer Chelsea footballer Dennis Wise, front right, presented a minibus to Lorraine Bliss, chief executive of the St Edmunds Society, in 2018. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

St Edmunds Society, on Oak Street, trains young people, who struggle in school, for practical jobs. It has been around for over 50 years, helping thousands of people start careers.

But chairman David Fullman said it was facing money problems.

In an email sent to staff on Monday, Mr Fullman wrote: “The Trustees are wholeheartedly committed to continuing to provide services and support for the young people that St Eds has been supporting for so many years.

“However, our financial situation continues to cause us concern.

The St Edmunds Society base on Oak Street, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe St Edmunds Society base on Oak Street, Norwich. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

“Therefore we will be getting a consultant in to take a long hard look at the way we work and how various parts of what we do are funded, including whether any improvements can be made.

“As soon as there are any results from this exercise, we will let you know.”

Trustees are due to meet again in April by which time they hope the consultant will have finished their work.

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Mr Fullman told staff that the charity, which had 28 staff in 2018, had enough cash to pay them for this month, but it would not replace any staff who had left because it was already three quarters of the way through the school year.

Trustee Alan Bliss said it was crucial to keep the charity going, but nobody wanted to pay for it.

“We get no statutory funding,” he said. “If we don’t do what we do, the kids are going to fall into county lines and crime.”

Its board resigned in 2018 amid a dispute and one trustee, who left at that time, said St Eds had faced financial troubles for years.

According to its accounts, it had no reserves in either 2017 or 2018.

Its accountants said in March 2017 that the charity needed to increase reserves to continue running and it managed to do that by selling a property.

The charity made a loss of £116,000 in 2017 and £58,000 in 2018 - the year of its latest accounts.

It gets most of its money from schools to train pupils who struggle academically.

St Eds was named as the Countess of Wessex’s charity of the year at last year’s Royal Norfolk Show.

A conference arranged by St Eds for May has also been called off because of coronavirus.

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