Board Update June 2024

Board Report June 2024 

The board would like to welcome Nichola Aylward as CEO of DSI, and we were delighted to have Nichola attend our May board meeting. We would also like to thank the NAC for inviting the board to their AGM in May, the NAC are instrumental in informing the board of the wishes of our members, and we welcome their advice and suggestions. We would also like to extend our thanks to Claire Wright for stepping into the position of interim CEO. We know that branches share our thanks for all her hard work and dedication over the last few months. 

As you are all aware, the Bye Laws were approved recently by the board. Thank you to all those who contributed to their creation. These bye laws, in conjunction with our M&A, ensure that DSI is a strong, compliant charity that can thrive well into the future. With the National AGM set to be held in the 3rd week of September, we would like to remind all branches that your branch AGM must be held at least 6 weeks before the National AGM. Many branch AGMs were held in May and June, and more are scheduled to be held in July. Any branch who has not set a date for their AGM, please consult the Bye Laws document or contact the National Office for guidance. The draft minutes of your branch AGM should be sent to Claire as soon as possible. This ensures that the board has oversight over the entire organisation, which is required by the Charity Regulators. 

To also ensure that the board has full oversight of the entire organisation, it is a requirement of the Charity Regulators that all DSI bank accounts are under the umbrella of the board and National Office. Thank you to those branches, who have bank accounts in AIB for complying and who have taken all the steps to ensure this is the case. Next, the board will be looking at proposals for moving Bank of Ireland accounts. Our CEO and CFO will be in touch when the board has approved a system to do this. It is vital that all branches move their accounts to come under the DSI umbrella. The board reviews the finances of the entire organisation at every quarterly board meeting. The board also reviews and approves branch and National Office expenditure in compliance with the Financial Policy. 

The Board would like to take the opportunity of welcoming our new fundraising team. John is very keen to work with branches on joint fundraisers, and has been working very hard to bring back some old favourites like Ice Cream Fundays. Many of our staff in the National Office who support our members and branches full time are not funded by grants, but are solely funded by fundraising. Shared fundraising is an important way of supporting the work of our dedicated national and regional staff, and the Board would encourage branches to help the National Office in anyway they can. 

Another issue for branches and National Office that the board are acutely aware of is the problem of hiring and retaining SLTs. This is a nation-wide, multi-agency issue. Olive in National Office has been delivering a highly successful early years SLT programme to our youngest members across the country. The Board though is acutely aware of the strain of delivering this programme in person for Olive, at the current rate. She is only one person, doing the work of many. The Board would strongly advise that branches look at hiring and sharing SLT assistants who can roll out Olive’s program. These SLT assistants can also do much more work with our members within a branch. The use of these highly trained assistants is common practice in the UK, and DSI is in a perfect position to be able to implement the same model. The employing of these assistants would be an excellent use of branch reserves for our members and the board looks forward to seeing branch plans based on Olive’s proposals. 

Every month, the board is delighted to receive branch plans for spending reserves, and we would like to thank all those branches and subcommittees for sharing their project details with us. So far, the board has approved every branch proposal submitted. 

In terms of the board composition, over the last few months, we have been actively seeking interest in our four independent director positions. We have received a high level of interest in these positions and the Nominations Committee has short listed the candidates for board approval. Our new independent directors will be taking up their positions in the very near future. 

The board would like to make clear that all our volunteers throughout the branches, and all staff members across the entire organisation, are entitled to work in an environment that is respectful. The Board expects that all communications received by volunteers and staff would be polite and respectful. If any volunteer or staff member receives communication, whether written or verbal, that is of an abusive nature, we would ask that you inform a senior member of the National Office team. The Board also expects that all communication from volunteers and staff to each other and members would be respectful in every way. 

On a final note, the board would like to thank all of the DSI branch committees, Regional Advisory Councils and National Advisory Councils for their dedication to all our members across the country. Together DSI is a leader and a strong voice for every person in Ireland who has Down Syndrome and their families. 

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