Alzheimer’s Society made nearly 200 staff redundant last year, as the charity tried to stabilise its finances during the pandemic.
The charity’s annual report for 2020-21 was published yesterday and shows that the charity spent nearly £1m on redundancy payments.
The accounts show that Alzheimer’s Society spent £87m in the twelve months to March 2021, down just under a quarter compared with the year before. Income dropped by 3% in the same period.
The report also says that the charity has never used non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to prevent staff from talking about their experiences at the organisation, but acknowledges that “two-way confidentiality clauses” have sometimes been agreed with employees “as a last resort”.
Alzheimer’s Society was accused of using NDAs to “silence” staff last year, something the charity has always denied.
Spending down £26m
Alzheimer’s Society spent £87m in 2020-21, down sharply from £113m in 2019-20. Its income also fell, from £114m to £111m.
In the introduction to the report, Kate Lee, the charity’s chief executive, said that cutting costs was essential to make sure it would “survive the pandemic” and that doing so was “one of the saddest and most challenging parts of the year”.
The accounts show that 195 staff were made redundant in 2020-21, which cut total salary costs from £52m to £45m. Redundancy payments doubled from £500,000 to just under £1m.
The number of full-time and part-time staff at Alzheimer’s Society fell from 2,185 to 1,854.
The charity held £43m in free reserves at the end of 2020-21. This is higher than the charity needs, the report says, so trustees will consider using £9m from reserves to deliver Alzheimer’s Society’s new strategy as it rolls out from next year.
Fundraising and furlough
Income from community fundraising dropped from £35m to £25m, after national and regional lockdowns forced the cancellation of events all over the country.
However, individual giving rose from £10m to £12m, and corporate donations rose from £4m to £5m.
The charity also claimed around £4.5m from the government’s furlough scheme. Lee says in the report that, at one point during the crisis, she placed nearly a third of her staff on furlough.
In early 2020, the Guardian newspaper reported claims that some Alzheimer’s Society staff had been “paid off and signed NDAs” after raising bullying complaints.
Alzheimer’s Society has always denied these claims. The annual report says it was “pleased to receive a clean bill of health” after an investigation by the Charity Commission.
It adds: “We have never signed, or asked an employee to sign, an NDA to stop them speaking out about any experience within the organisation. This would go against our values and the safe, inclusive culture we want to develop.
“In a limited number of cases, we agree two-way confidentiality clauses when terminating an employment contract. This only covers the details of the settlement and does not prevent anyone from speaking out about any bullying, harassment or discrimination.
“The employee always takes independent legal advice before entering any agreement.”
The charity says that it did not use any settlement agreements in 2020-21, but did make compensation payments worth £11,500 to two members of staff after negotiations with the arbitration service ACAS.
This process “is very rare and not a decision taken lightly”, the report says.
Chair: We are ‘in awe’ of supporters
Stephen Hill, the chair of trustees at Alzheimer’s Society, wrote in his introduction to the report: “After an initial fear in early 2020 that the pandemic would devastate our ability to fundraise, we also needed to prioritise our commitment to the financial sustainability of Alzheimer’s Society.
“Although our income was lower than in previous years, the board of trustees and I were in awe of our supporters’ unwavering generosity and support.
“This, and a combination of very tight cost controls, meant we ended the year in a strong financial position.”