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Charity interview: “Demand is so high…we’re always looking to increase our reach”

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As the inaugural winner of NR Times Charity of the Year, the Child Brain Injury Trust was recognised for the dynamic and dedicated support it has provided to children and young people with brain injury and their families for over 30 years. 

Here, chief executive Lisa Turan reflects on the progress of the charity – and looks to its future and its ambitious plans to deliver even greater levels of provision

Working across 20 Major Trauma Centres, specialist hospitals, and countless schools and communities across the UK, the Child Brain Injury Trust is truly delivering on-the-ground support to families whose lives have been affected by childhood brain injury. 

With its team of specialist ABI Coordinators delivering in-person support, backed up by its evidenced-based practice, the charity has been helping families to rebuild after the trauma of brain injury since 1991. 

The Child Brain Injury Trust has also become known for its innovative fundraising, with novel events helping to play a key role in generating the £1.5million it raises each year to deliver its life-changing support. 

Named as winner of the Charity of the Year Award at the first-ever NR Times Awards, judges praised the approach of the Child Brain Injury Trust – “it probably ticks every box you’d hope for in a charity – collaboration, education, training, innovation, engaging all stakeholders in fundraising, and always thinking outside the box to develop things further,” said the judging panel. 

And those qualities are now helping to underpin the future of the Child Brain Injury Trust, with an ambitious new plan being unveiled to deliver even more support to families – but which will need to be underpinned by at least £1million more in fundraising income. 

For Lisa Turan, who has been chief executive of the Child Brain Injury Trust for 20 years, she is looking forward to building even further on what has already been achieved. 

“I’m so proud of how far we have come as a charity, and to be named as Charity of the Year and to hear what the judges have said about us is incredible,” she says. 

“At a time when public perceptions of the charity sector are often unfavourable, receiving such positive feedback and support is truly uplifting. It has significantly bolstered us as a team.

“We don’t shout about our achievements or expect a pat on the back, and the work we do in supporting families can be quite invisible. 

“What we want is for families to move forward in their communities positively and to empower them to be able to do that, knowing we are there if they need us. 

“We’ve experienced substantial growth since our humble beginnings, and our ambitions for further expansion in the future are stronger than ever.”

WATCH: Heather Batey, managing director of brain injury rehab group Reach, sponsor of the Charity of the Year NR Times 2023 Award, shares her views on the winner.

 

Delivering a life-changing service

From being established in 1991 at Oxford Radcliffe Hospital, the Child Brain Injury Trust has grown to be a vital UK-wide resource for families and professionals alike. 

Playing a number of crucial roles in supporting children and young people with brain injuries, the Child Brain Injury Trust acts as a scaffold at each stage of a family’s journey. 

From the initial injury, an ABI Coordinator is at hand to support, guide and assist a family to navigate what is quite often one of the most traumatic, complicated and frightening times of their life.  

From being an information resource for parents in the hospital as well as the community, through to supporting the reintegration back into education and transition into adult services, the charity has developed significantly in its ability to deliver services at scale. 

When Lisa joined in 2003, there were four people in the team – now there are 42. 

“We had already been going for 12 years and were doing good work, but it wasn’t consistent,” recalls Lisa. 

“We were delivering information and facilitated support groups, but national provision was inconsistent. 

“Upon joining, my goal was to secure a promising future for CBIT and deliver a strategic plan to enhance the existing groundwork. Recognising gaps in provision and understanding the pressing needs, I was driven to amplify our impact and take our mission to new heights.”

And from that initial plan has come huge progress. Supporting young people up to the age of 25, and taking referrals to the age of 18, the Child Brain Injury Trust works with up to 1,200 families directly each year across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Including social media engagement and remote interactions, that number increases significantly. 

In addition to its sector-leading work in schools and hospitals, the charity has also developed the pioneering CBIT in Hand – the first ever digital health intervention for families affected by childhood brain injury, which has so far been downloaded more than 4,000 times. 

It gives access to virtual support for concussion, head injury and ABI, for both families and professionals, and also has a marketplace feature for specialist services and products. 

“We have been downloaded over 4,000 times so far, but I’d love to get to 100,000 and more – 500,000 children go to A&E each year with a head injury, and our app could help every one of those children and their families,” says Lisa. 

“We are in a number of hospitals, but once we secure accreditation, we will be looking to roll it out into more. The main thing is that as many families know about it and can access it as possible, that’s what we want to achieve.”

Widening its remit even further, in 2020 the Child Brain Injury Trust launched a counselling service, the waiting list for which is currently six weeks – vastly shorter than families who rely on NHS support. 

“We launched it in the middle of the pandemic, when families really needed that therapeutic intervention, and it has been very well received,” says Lisa. 

“Young people from the age of 11 can have individual counselling, and whole families can access it too, at no cost to them. 

“The waiting list is also very manageable and enables them to access the support they need more quickly.”

Ambitious growth plans

While the Child Brain Injury Trust has grown significantly under Lisa’s leadership, the huge demand for its resources from families across the UK means the next phase of development is now set for launch. 

“We’re always looking at how we can increase our reach, and how we can improve our impact. The demand is so high that we need to address this,” says Lisa. 

And as a result, the Child Brain Injury Trust is set to scale up its support to around 5,000 families a year, focusing on three key areas – early intervention; community inclusion and education; and virtual support. 

Its counselling service will also be scaled up, and over the years ahead, additional ABI Coordinators are set to be added to the team to help reach more families across communities and to increase our presence in hospitals. 

“We have looked really carefully at this and in how to create a sustainable model for support; we believe that lies in these three main areas,” says Lisa. 

“By focusing on strategy and planning, we will be able to resource those areas to deliver appropriate support to many more families. 

“Early intervention focuses on in-hospital support when the ABI first happens, so we’ll be more visible in those settings and more integrated within the clinical teams; we’ll be immersed in communities, building our network and working more in-depth with educators to provide impactful training; and our virtual support will be for those isolated and harder to reach families who maybe need support, some specific information, or a listening ear. 

“It’s also for families, who don’t need constant support but might want to dip in and out as needed.”

While the demand for greater levels of support is immediate, the new scaled-up services must be funded – and will cost around £2.5million each year to fund. 

“These are ambitious plans, I realise that – but it is what is needed,” says Lisa. 

“We want our service to continue to be outcome-focused and evidence-based, and the growth in what we do will always revolve around these principles. 

“We’re going to go all out in terms of upscaling our income portfolio, and I’m confident we can deliver on the plans we have unveiled. We have a strong plan, we are led by our values, we know we are in a strong position to achieve our plan, and while it’s ambitious, I’m confident at the same time.”

Self-sustaining model

In raising its current £1.5million annual income and adding another £1million to that total to fund its growth, the Child Brain Injury Trust has established a strong and sustainable income model which underpins its work. 

With longstanding relationships with many corporate supporters, in addition to its renowned events programme and grant funding, the charity is launching its first-ever crowdfunding initiative – Every Child, Every Family – which is looking to raise £150,000 and goes live on January 21. 

Its Strategic Partnership Programme, launched last year, aligns its corporate partners even more closely with the charity and its services. 

Lisa, whose background is in business, charity, and marketing, has helped to create the charity’s dynamic fundraising approach – a key differentiating factor highlighted by the judges in the NR Times Awards. 

“We’re very lucky to have a really good base of corporate supporters, which continues to grow. We align with organisations who share our values and want to add value to our work,” says Lisa. 

“We have a commercial outlook and understand the need for a return on investment. We’re a values-led organisation and we wholeheartedly live by this in all our work, in everything we do. 

“We are firm believers that establishing meaningful relationships forms the cornerstone of successful partnerships with all our supporters. The authenticity we bring generates a positive energy, enabling us to make a difference that extends beyond mere financial contributions.

The crowdfunding initiative is a first for the Child Brain Injury Trust, but again, is something Lisa is confident the team and its vast network can deliver on. 

“I’d probably say I’m excited but cautious about it, we’ve never done anything like this before,” says Lisa. 

“We’ll be working with our networks of professionals, our existing supporters and anyone else who wants to join us to bring our whole collective approach together.

“We are keen for as many people to join us on this journey and help to raise the funds that are going to grow our support for families even further.” Every child, every family – a Charities crowdfunding project in Bicester by Child Brain Injury Trust (crowdfunder.co.uk).

Events are also a key part of the charity’s offering, with everything from parties themed around its annual GloWeek – a child road safety drive – to its upcoming Be You gala ball helping to raise funds, and with it crucial awareness of its cause. 

“We deliver and support around 25 events each year, they’re all really popular and well attended, and as well as people having a great time, we’re able to raise money too,” says Lisa. 

“It’s not all about fundraising at the event itself, it’s about bringing people together and celebrating the support we receive. Our Agloha event is an exceptional event and a club night, where guests dress up in brilliant colours and have fun together. Our income from Agloha comes from sponsorship and ticket sales, and there is no fundraising on the night, giving the opportunity for guests to relax and to be part of an exclusive, yet fun event.

“This emphasis on meaningful connections ensures that our corporate supporters can engage with a diverse audience without the pressure of obligatory donations. We strive to cater to everyone, and the widespread popularity of our initiatives is truly encouraging news.”

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