COVID-19 has, as you know, been a major focus of the trustees and the Bethesda management team during this year. In the Lord’s mercies, we have been helped thus far in responding to COVID-19 and we would acknowledge His protecting hand that has watched over the residents and staff in our Homes.
We are also conscious that the winter months, as spared, are before of us and the government is highlighting the need to be vigilant as we face a ‘second wave’ of COVID-19.
As you may be aware, the decision was prayerfully taken in July 2020 to provide visiting facilities in the Homes. This was done ahead of any decisions by the government, but our concern was the need to find a way for residents and loved ones to meet again in a safe and secure environment. We hope that if there are any additional restrictions placed on visiting, we can make a case with the appropriate authorities to continue to use the visitor rooms during this time if further constraints are imposed. As a result of feedback, we have investigated ways of introducing hearing loops and reducing the glare from the screens in the visitor rooms. If the Lord will, these points will be addressed in the near future.
Working with the families involved, we have also put in place special arrangements for visiting residents who are bedbound or who may because of their personal circumstances
need a visit from a close relative. We continue to provide safe and managed access to the Homes for those whose loved ones are near the end of life.
We would assure you that our prime concern is for the well-being of the residents and staff and that we are not unaware of the impact COVID-19 has had on families and friends whose loved ones are in the Homes. Whatever the coming months may bring, Bethesda will continue to ensure the safety of those in the Homes through managing unnecessary physical contact and taking steps to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.
Bethesda is taking part in the government initiative of testing staff for COVID-19 on a weekly basis and monthly for residents. In the Lord’s mercies no test results have been positive in recent weeks. In order to ensure a reserve pool of staff, if needed to cover absences, then Bethesda is looking for additional bank staff who could step in when needed. Currently there is a particular need at Studley and if you are able to help them please contact Adrian Topping at 01582 460522 for further details.
Do pray that wisdom might be given in making decisions at this time, and that all might be done to the honour and glory of the Lord.
The financial state of the Homes
At the Open Meetings held in November 2019, the trustees shared the issues facing Bethesda and the possible way forward.
One of the immediate actions identified was tackling the significant operational loss incurred by the Charity in the running of the residential care homes. In 2019, budgets for 2020 were prepared based on an analysis of the effectiveness of Bethesda’s operation and scrutinising both income and expenditure. This was, as can be imagined, a time-consuming process but a necessary one if the level of financial management both in budget preparation, monitoring and reviewing of financial performance was to be in place.
At the same time, Bethesda has implemented a new accounting system that provides timely monthly reports and these are being used by trustees to ensure accountability at both Home level and centrally.
Central to the performance of the Homes is occupancy. This was highlighted in the Annual Report and Financial Statements 2019 and the current occupancy of the Homes is, at the time of writing, as follows:
Brighton 81% (18 residents out of 22 places)
Harpenden 36% (9 residents out of 25 places)
Studley 61% (8 residents out of 13 places)
In the case of two Homes, staff costs are equivalent to or in excess of resident income.
Although the trustees have focused on addressing the financial management Bethesda, they have not lost sight of the purpose of the Charity and that Bethesda is the place where the residents live and have their home.
An analysis has been undertaken of the financial performance of Bethesda over the past ten years and, if the Lord will, trustees hope to share key points from this as future plans are considered.
As one of the Lord’s servants wrote to the trustees stating that he felt that “the Lord has a perfect will for Bethesda” it is the heartfelt desire of the trustees to seek, know and do the will of the Lord.
The trustees have often been brought to that place “neither know what to do, but our eyes are upon thee.” As was highlighted at the annual meeting 2019, Bethesda is serving a diminishing group of Churches.
As set out at the Open Meetings last year, the possible way forward in meeting current needs was developing Independent Living Accommodation close to causes of truth so that there was an opportunity for those older attendees to remain near a place of worship. The other aspect was the provision of high dependency residential care in purpose-built accommodation that would meet the physical and mental well-being needs of the residents.
The questions: “Where?” “When?” and “What to do?” are uppermost and the trustees are prayerfully seeking the Lord’s appearing in this matter.
The trustees are aware of the views expressed regarding entry criteria. At the same time, we are conscious of the purpose of Bethesda as set out in its charitable Scheme together with the need to maintain the ethos of the Homes.
At the current time, the trustees have not agreed what steps will need to be taken regarding the future of Bethesda. All we can say is that any steps will not be taken lightly, and we will endeavour to share these publicly, if the Lord will, at the appropriate time.
The trustees are also looking at the practicalities involved in holding the postponed AGM, if the Lord will, at the end of the year.
We have also been moving forward the decision to move from an unincorporated charity to an incorporated one. We will be communicating with subscribers on this matter, if the Lord will, in due course.
Whilst mentioning subscribers, please can we ask subscribers to check whether their subscription is up to date.
We would also thank those causes of truth and individuals who have either held collections for or made donations to Bethesda - this is very much appreciated in view of the additional costs incurred because of COVID-19.
Finally, it does appear in the Lord’s purposes that we are facing unprecedented times in our country and in the history of the GS causes of truth (that Bethesda was originally established to serve). We desire to do all to the honour and glory of the Lord and seek your prayerful support in the challenging times ahead that wisdom and direction might be given:
- To manage, in the fear of the Lord, the financial resources of Bethesda prudently and that the He will continue to supply our needs
- To the General Manager and the Home Management Teams in their day to day responsibilities for Bethesda
- To discern and seek the Lord’s will concerning the future of Bethesda and the existing Homes
- In making the arrangements for the AGM and finalising the transition to a Charitable Company.
Please feel free to pass this Update on to anyone who may be interested in the work of Bethesda.
On behalf of the Bethesda trustees