St John Ambulance income up by about a quarter last year

The charity had been forced to curtail much of its in-person training work in 2020 because of the effects of the coronavirus pandemic

(Photograph: John Keeble/Getty Images)
(Photograph: John Keeble/Getty Images)

Income at St John Ambulance rose by about 25 per cent last year as the charity recovered from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The accounts for the year to the end of December 2021, published this week with Companies House, showed the charity raised £114m, compared with £92.2m in 2020.

Income generated by training and other first aid work rose from £35.7m to £54.8m. St John Ambulance was forced to curtail much of its in-person training work in 2020 and parts of 2021 during a series of Covid-19 lockdowns.

The value of legacies, grants and donations fell, from £25.8m in 2020 to £15.3m in 2021, partly as a result of increased emergency fundraising when the pandemic began. The accounts show that donations have returned to the same level seen before Covid-19.

St John Ambulance spent £106.5m, also up sharply compared with 2020, when the charity spent £99.1m. It recorded a surplus of £10.5m across the year, after a deficit of £8.4m in the previous 12 months.

After completing a programme of redundancies during the pandemic, the number of staff at St John Ambulance, measured as headcount, fell about 9 per cent between 2020 and 2021, from 1,647 to 1,517. Total spending on salaries was down by 8 per cent, from £40.6m to £37.5m.

Last year, Third Sector reported that multiple allegations of bullying had been made by staff at St John Ambulance.

Addressing the issue in the accounts, the charity says: “No organisation is perfect, and St John has faced some significant challenges during 2021.

“We already knew there were aspects of our culture that didn’t live up to the values of humanity, excellence, accountability, responsiveness and teamwork we aspire to, and were taking steps to improve the charity.”

The accounts repeat the commitment to invest £500,000 from reserves to address some of those concerns, and say the charity has piloted leadership development programmes and “pioneering approaches to conflict resolution”, with more work to be rolled out this year.

This includes a 15-month internal campaign aimed at “actively engaging the organisation with our work on culture change and improvement”, the accounts say, with a pledge to learn from and amend the approach as the campaign proceeds.

Claire Vaughan, people and culture director at St John Ambulance, said that the £500,000 covered work in 2021 and 2022, as part of "a long-term commitment to making St John Ambulance an even better place to work and volunteer".

The charity’s free operational reserves, which excludes investment property, stood at £20.1m at the end of 2021, up from £15.3m. This is in the middle of the target range for reserves set by trustees.

Martin Houghton-Brown, chief executive of St John Ambulance, says in the introduction to the accounts that the charity’s performance last year shows “our financial strategy in 2020 paying dividends in 2021, with a vastly improved picture balancing the books over the two years of the pandemic.

He says: “We must now invest to enable us to meet the challenges of the new economic realities in which we all find ourselves”.

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