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A message to members

A message to members

What a year it has been

Girlguiding Ulster has had many challenges throughout the past year as have so many other organisations and charities. Our normal face-to-face guiding has been almost impossible over the last 10 months. We have had to find new ways to connect with our members and never has the virtual world proved to be so important in keeping in touch and providing guiding online. Programmes have been adapted for all sections, so that they could have fun at home. There have been treasure hunts around houses, baking in mugs and using all sorts of scrap material to make all kinds of crafts!

We also know that it has not been possible for all members to be active this year. Many of our volunteers are frontline workers, key workers and/or have been home schooling too. There have been huge pressures and stresses on all families and sometimes guiding just has not been on the radar for you all. We want you to know that we continue to support you and thank you for all that you have done and are doing for guiding in your area.

Supporting our members

To help support our members during this time we have delivered sessions on how to use Zoom with the girls, changed the way we deliver training, trained our trainers to deliver webinars, and we received funding to set up a virtual hub which provides activities, videos and resources for online meetings. Guiding has been in existence for over 110 years and we are known for adapting and changing to meet the needs of our members which is why we are called a movement!

Ultimately, our aim throughout the last 10 months has been to support all of our members and their mental health and well-being, delivering sessions to leaders on mindfulness, resilience, afternoon tea events and supportive conversations throughout. We have been constantly thinking of ways to engage girls and ensure that they are still being offered fun as part of the guiding programme. This has been especially needed as girls’ social lives have changed dramatically.

Funding update

None of us expected 10 months on from the first lockdown that we would still be at home and that our normal lives would be affected so badly. Girlguiding Ulster has had to take many difficult decisions during this period including making redundancies. Before Covid-19, we had 47 casual staff, 18 permanent team members and one member of temporary staff. Following redundancies, we now have five full time staff and three part time. Some of the staff that we had to let go had been working at Lorne for many years and it was very sad to have to end their association with Girlguiding during this time.

The more positive news however is that we have since been able to successfully obtain some new and much needed grant funding. We have secured funding from Community Foundations, Government Departments and local Councils. This has meant that we have been able to retain our reduced workforce and continue to provide services to our membership, therefore helping sustain Girlguiding in Ulster. These retained team members have had to adapt to the changing situation and have been fulfilling many roles in order to provide good service, support, guidance and advice.

We have also been able to use funding that we have secured to provide PPE to all units, and I am pleased to report that more PPE will be sent to every unit via County Commissioners in the near future. So, look out for your box of anti-bacterial wipes, face masks and hand sanitisers. Other grant funding that we have accessed has enabled us to pay equipment costs and will help us to deliver events at Lorne this year. It has allowed us to produce a SHINE resource pack with free badges that is available for all sections.

Overall, our ability to secure new funding has put the organisation on a much firmer footing and in a much better financial situation than we previously expected.

Girlguiding Ulster membership fee being waived

Given the improved picture regarding the financial position, Girlguiding Ulster Trustees have made the decision to waive the Girlguiding Ulster membership fee of £19.00 per member for this year. This means that only the Girlguiding UK levy of £17.70 plus some small County levies will need to be paid. Further information about what this means is available in our Q&A please see below.

We would of course have liked to have made this decision sooner. However, it is only in recent days and weeks that we have been notified about some of the funding secured and some that is likely to come. This, backed by prudent financial management and hard work over the course of the pandemic, has given us the financial basis on which to make this decision now.

I trust that you will view this as positive news, and as we move forward into 2021 on a sounder financial footing, I will keep you updated on our progress and activities.

Best wishes

Brenda Herron

Girlguiding Ulster Chief Commissioner

· Why are we only making this decision now?

The Trustees and staff team have been working extremely hard throughout the last six months to make prudent financial decisions and to apply for as many grants as possible. This perseverance has paid off and we are now in a much better place. Some of the grants have only been notified to us in the past week and in recent days we have been given good reason to believe that others will be forthcoming in the near future. This has given us the sound footing to be able to make this decision now. The trial invoices are available this week and there is still plenty of time to change these before the final invoice on 22nd February. If you have already downloaded your trial invoice you can download it again on Monday 1st February which will then show a £0.00 amount for Girlguiding Ulster.

· I have already removed girls from the unit, can I add them back on?

Yes, if you have removed girls or leaders from the unit, we would encourage you to re-activate these members via GO, so that they can continue their membership with us. Download the PDF below for step by step instructions on how to do this.

· Why are Girlguiding UK still charging £17.70?

GGUK are continuing to provide a safeguarding function, online programme materials through Adventures at Home, insurance, GO, training materials, and central communications. Girlguiding UK have already gone through a redundancy process and have reduced costs and projects for the year ahead significantly. By paying this levy you will help to ensure the sustainability of Girlguiding.

· Is there any help to pay for Girlguiding UK and County levies?

If your unit is registered with the Education Authority then for this year, you are able to use your grant to pay for membership fees. Units can also claim gift aid for the previous 4 years and this money could also be used to help subsidise fees. If your unit has funds these can also be used to subsidise fees.

· Do I still have to ask parents to pay for these fees?

It is hoped that by reducing the fees by £19.00 per head that parents will see that we are doing all that we can to support them and their families. Membership fees are asked for each February, so this amount will cover from now until February 2022. Please share this message with parents to let them know what Girlguiding Ulster is doing to support them and their girls.