Civil Rights First have published their Annual Report for the year 2020, which can be downloaded in its published form here.

Key extracts from the Annual Report for 2020 read as follows:

Founder’s Report

This is our first Civil Rights First Annual Report for the Financial Year ending 31st March 2020. This year has presented many new challenges for all third sector organisations, including those well established. CRF is still in its infancy and only scraping the surface of what is possible with such a diverse and unprecedented service delivery. The current Covid-19 pandemic results in our service being needed more so than ever. We provide our FREE service to everyone, hence our much-needed support from statutory agencies, grant funders and donations which are all greatly appreciated. Holistic is one of our core organisational values and strengths; we are both person centred, and solutions based in our approach to every case we undertake. Evaluation and monitoring are key to our service delivery with gold standard advice and representation our priority. This results in all enquiries receiving a high standard of help and or sign posting to other relevant organisations.

My own background is diverse in experience both professionally and personally, as an accomplished senior professional with over thirty-year’s experience in both the Third Sector together with an extensive senior business management experience. My passion for making a difference is deep rooted. Utilising all capabilities within senior management Civil Rights First Charitable Organisation was founded. Our aim is supporting people in Scotland with advice on their rights and providing Access to Justice, it is our core vision that FREE access to advice and representation should be available for everyone. There are thousands of citizens year on year requiring advice on their legal rights under human rights and equalities legislation. Collaboratively CRF is delivering and creating visions and values to develop strategic plans with our dedicated board of Trustees, which is invested with values-based leadership both internally and externally, maximising all our skills and experience to engage with major stakeholders and successfully secure budgets for future service delivery. Together our professional skills are delivered in a directive manner with a strong commitment to public service and making a real difference for everyone accessing our service.

Additionally, prior to CRF I was instrumental in the design and delivery of a Scottish Legal Aid Board Project, “Making Advice Work”, delivering this progressive project over a five-year period provided a strong professional foundation within the Third Sector at senior level. Assisting and supporting vulnerable people to realise positive outcomes is our priority at CRF. Consistently aligning my professional and personal values to inspire, empower and work collaboratively with others at all levels. It’s fair to say my passion rests in making a real difference using all my skills and abilities.

Civil Rights First is a holistic and innovative charity making a real difference in social justice at present. We provide FREE effective advice and advocacy to all citizens, where access to justice and money advice is paramount. We have provided this service since our launch in May 2018. In 2020 our vision was to grow our charity further with robust sustainability. However, this has proved challenging in the current climate. Notwithstanding we are focussed on greater scope of consultation with virtual meetings across an even greater geographical area. With no travel costs, we have reduced miles while offering person centred advice and advocacy to a wider audience, benefiting both the clients and the charity as a whole. This new innovative method of service delivery ensures we reach all our clients in a timely manner. This new service delivery offers choice and accessibility to everyone, including isolated clients who would otherwise be struggling to access advice services.

CRF is both robust and sustainable; connecting digitally has demonstrated positive outcomes. However, it is noted barriers still exist with exclusions and inequality for those who do not have access digitally. Therefore, partnership working is crucial; organisations working with vulnerable groups can enable further accessibility for vital advice services. Recognising many of the benefits with digital visions, the main focus is working with all agencies and partnership’s across communities, money advice and social care services, this is central to our continued success.

Civil Rights First is a new and innovative charity with excellent strategic planning, the demands are extensive and considerable, market research has evidenced this widely. We have sustainability strategies; nevertheless, it is necessary to grow in fluidity within the present changing landscapes. CRF has a robust sustainability policy; CRF Policy Statement is follows: As a result of ongoing public sector austerity, there has been a major shift in business models. Public trust is Civil Rights First’s most valuable asset, it is vital to protect it together with the fundamental aims and objectives from dilution or deflection. For continuity Civil Rights First must constantly review its funding strategies for a diverse means of income generation to mitigate reliance upon grant funding sources. Although sustainability poses challenges to both finance and reputation, Civil Rights First will always consider ALL sources of funding, including grants, donations, fundraising events and within our
five-year strategic planning with the future for long term sustainability of the charity.

The delivery of our specialist advice service is presently delivered on a voluntary basis, dedication to helping others is key to our values-based approach. In 2021 we would like to expand our service and recruit more specialist advisers and part-time administrative staff; this is dependent on securing much needed funding. A considerable amount of management time is spent on funding applications and securing necessary core funds to maintain our gold standard service. There is increasing demand for our advice services, please see our case studies and client financial gain. Moreover, I would like to take this opportunity to thank our board who play a vital role in the governance and visions for CRF. Providing due diligence with governance guaranteeing compliance with policy and procedure with recommended guidance under the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.

Thank you all for your dedication and hard work during these uncertain and difficult times. Keep well and stay safe.

Dionne McCabe

Chairman’s Report for year 2020

CRF has survived a challenging year successfully in that the core aims of the charity are being met and it is still active.

COVID-19 has obviously not helped in one way curtailing our ability to meet and discuss issues, but in another way, it has opened up a raft of potential clients to serve…and so it has been something of a two-edged sword for CRF.

The majority of the work volume – dealing with individual cases and pursuing Grant applications has been addressed and sustained by Dionne McCabe. This is the foundation of the charity’s success and the benchmark for continued progress. Dionne and the Board fully appreciate the workload, and, from the Board’s perspective it is an ongoing concern.

It is not a position easily absorbed as a continuing means of managing CRF; as finding a suitable or feasible balance between distributing the case load and sustaining funding applications, must be addressed.

Employment of additional staff to alleviate case work, either on a voluntary or part time basis, is the short-term solution. Applying a cap to the level of case work while practical, does not meet with the ethos of CRF. These are, nevertheless, matters for Board consultation and consideration.

In any event, CRF needs increased and sustained funding on an exponential base to make serious progress in 2021. Grants and the Advocacy Fund income is a useful lining, but a structured programme is highly recommended.

The year ahead will not be any easier than the past 12 months but collaboration as a Board with a workable strategy will give much to be optimistic about.

Hamish Alldridge