We have great pleasure in bringing you the final report of the NCCF Phase I Portfolio. A record of the great work undertaken by a dedicated group of Trustees first working in the old BNTVA and then in the NCCF. Working between BH Associates and the board members we have put a great deal of effort into managing the portfolio to ensure the projects all deliver to their best potential.
It has not all been plain sailing and a significant number of obstacles have had to be overcome. BH Associates have given their skills and abilities to help the board navigate the troubled waters and we are really pleased that we have emerged with some great results.
The approach used by everyone associated with the portfolio has been to take any obstacle or issue and turn it to an advantage, as you will read when one project began to fail the prompt action of all involved ensured the funds were not only protected but diverted to a project that was not only able to address the issues of the failed project but was also able to widen the scope of the support and deliver a more impacting service to the community.
There have been no free lunches delivering this portfolio and all concerned have worked above and beyond expectations.
As Phase II is now becoming fully active it has been a worthwhile exercise reviewing how we got here and the lessons learned. This drives our ethos of continual development and we look forward to delivering even greater things with Phase II.
Background – The Initial Ideas
The British Nuclear Test Veterans Association abandoned it’s confrontational campaigning stance in 2009 when it became a charitable organisation no 1131134. The previous 30 years of confrontation had done significant damage to the organisation’s reputation within the British establishment and, aside from a small number of war pension victories, had achieved little for the benefit of the nuclear veterans or their families. The long journey of changing this perception and gaining acceptance as the reasonable voice of the nuclear community was undertaken.
Working with the membership the new Trustees consulted and listened to their beneficiaries. Information from the previous years “British Nuclear Test Veterans Health Needs Audit” by Miles and Green was used to consider how they could move forward as a community and the driving concept of ‘going forward together’ gave the organisation a direction and goal.
In 2012 The BNTVA unanimously supported the launch of the ‘Recognition Campaign’ at its annual conference. One of the key aims of the campaign was to secure a fund of monies from which the needs of the entire nuclear community could be addressed.
Describing this, the then Chairman, Nigel Heaps, detailed how such a fund could operate; rather than giving each living Veteran compensation of £6-8000 whether they needed it or not, it would be much better to bring that fund together and create some really meaningful activities that would reduce suffering, increase wellbeing, increase knowledge and develop understanding across the whole community, providing care and support for many years to come.
This also had the advantage that it could not be viewed as a compensation payment and although a few veterans wanted compensation, there was a clear majority who believed compensation was ‘get off the hook blood money’ and would be a door closer to any future assistance for our community.
The uniqueness of the nuclear community, with genetic damage potentially being passed down through the generations, also creates a situation where compensation is not the most effective answer to our problems. We do not know how long our offspring will suffer the ravages of the nuclear tests, echoes of genetic damage certainly seem evident in great-grandchildren and it is to the future generations, their health and support, that many
These were the driving ideas that the BNTVA membership unanimously adopted and made real in 2015 when, following the successful delivery of the Recognition Campaign, our ‘Expression of Interest’ for the Phase One of the Aged Veterans Fund Grants were submitted.
At the BNTVA 2015 Conference in Bournemouth, the Trustees knew that the offer of financial support for the community was ‘in the air’ and it could only be a matter of time before formal proposals were being made. Nigel reminded the Conference that at the previous year’s conference in Manchester, he had announced his intention to stand down once the fund had been secured. He agreed to remain in post as there were still final negotiations taking place.
Later that year the Aged Veterans Fund was launched and the BNTVA Expression of Interest submitted. Nigel wrote the EOI which was immediately hailed as a ‘model submission’ by the AVF and became the ‘yardstick’ for future applications. With this work complete Nigel resigned from the BNTVA Board and Jeff Liddiatt took over the chairmanship.
Managing the Portfolio
Once the BNTVA Expression of Interest was accepted by the AVF the hard work of formalising the bid and delivery plan was undertaken. The BNTVA constituted a Sub-Committee to manage all matters relating to the AVF funding and projects, The Nuclear Community Charity Fund was created.
The AVF advised the NCCF that specialist help would need to be retained to manage the portfolio of projects on a daily basis, neither the BNTVA nor the NCCF employed full time staff.
In 2015 the average salary was £27,600 rising to £54,000 in London, on top of this the Charity would have had to meet and administer all the costs of employment, so even with a reasonable wage deal the charity would have had to find the best part of £50,000 per year for one full-time member of staff. Clearly, £150,000 was much too high a cost to administer the three-year project. The NCCF decided to hold a costing comparison and approached a number of service providers to explore the costs of a bespoke support system for the portfolio.
When Nigel informed the board he intended to resign he agreed to continue providing a range of support services to the Charity through his already established business, as a result of this, the Trustees decided to invite BH Associates to submit a proposal for the management of the AVF Portfolio to the Costing Comparison. Once the Comparison was convened it was clear that BH Associates not only provided the best value for money but also that their experience and commitment to the nuclear community would drastically increase the synergy of the entire portfolio. Following a full review by the AVF, BH Associates were duly contracted to the fund at a cost of just over £21,000 per year.
Going back to early 2014 Nigel Heaps and Stephen Bexon had decided to take the hard-learned skills they had gathered running the BNTVA and its Recognition Campaign and offer them to other small charities and business startups. BH Associates was formed initially as a partnership in April 2014 and in January 2015 it became a Limited Liability Partnership, in October 2015 BH Associates were contracted to provide Portfolio and Project management services to the NCCF, as the business client base and operations grew the LLP evolved into a limited company in May 2017.
Developing the Projects
The various projects that had been mandated by the BNTVA membership were evaluated against the funding on offer for Phase One of the AVF provision. The NCCF had to select the ones that would ensure the £1m budget garnered the best value for money whilst providing the biggest impact for the community.
Genetic research was a cornerstone desire amongst the community, any research that may shed light on the potential for genetic damage to be transmitted down the germline would address the long-held fears of veterans and their families.
Dr Rhona Anderson at Brunel University London was keen to take research forward. Dr Anderson was already well versed in the issues of our nuclear community having peer-reviewed the work of Professor Al Rowland on the New Zealand veterans. The project was constrained by the available finances but the research design would ensure that a meaningful result could be achieved.
Mental health within the nuclear community was also an area of keen interest and Combat Stress proposed a research and treatment program to address mental health issues within the veteran population of the nuclear community.
With the main scientific issues addressed it was decided that social research was required to help identify and quantify the nuclear community to provide the human story from an academic perspective. Southampton University was contracted with Dr Becky Alexis-Martin as the principal researcher to deliver the ‘Nuclear Families’ project.
Remembrance, which is also a key activity within the nuclear community, was incorporated in the form of a project to complete the development of the National Memorial to British Nuclear Test Veterans at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas.
The final project was the creation of a Care and Wellbeing fund to reduce suffering and increase wellbeing. The initial budget for the fund was £110,000 with £85,000 ringfenced specifically for grants and the remaining £15,000 for the administration of the project. A Grant Panel was established and various support projects initiated.
The portfolio management and all the constituent projects were subject to strict contractual agreements which were thoroughly vetted along with the finalised bid documentation by the Aged Veterans Fund before any awards were made.
The Fund Goes Live
On the 21st May 2016 the launch of the Phase I portfolio projects were presented to members of the British Nuclear Community at the BNTVA 1131134 AGM. Welcomed by all, plans were also approved for the future projects for Phase II submission.