During 2015, CHS continued to offer its 24/7 Helpline, mental health and educational testing services, but it was also a year of significant change for our organisation. The lease at the previous premises came to an end and, since the owner had decided to convert the office space into student accommodation, we had been advised towards the end of 2014 that we would have to move. After several months of searching in 2015, we were fortunate to find very suitable premises, an entire house, at Avenue des Phalènes 26, 1000 Brussels, off Avenue Franklin Roosevelt and very close to the ULB campus.
We moved during September 2015 and the reaction of all concerned - clients, patients, therapists and volunteers - has been very positive. The building offers 9 therapist meeting rooms compared to 5 in the previous premises and this is facilitating the growth that we had foreseen in the number of therapists working with CHS.
The Helpline continues to provide an anonymous, confidential, 24/7 telephone service in English, for children, adolescents and adults. It is operated by around 30 volunteers (trained, supported and supervised by professional therapists) who can provide general information, support or help in a crisis. During 2015, the Helpline received almost 3,400 calls.
The Mental Health Centre has an international team (16 at the end of 2015) of psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists offering therapeutic services to deal with a broad range of mental health conditions as well as educational testing services for children. There are 2 teams, one dealing with adults and the other with children, adolescents and families.
Identical to 2014, 738 new clients contacted the Mental Health Centre for the first time during 2015, representing almost 40 nationalities, an indication of the diversity of the international community using our services. While all therapists working with CHS speak fluent English, individual members also work in other languages, currently Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Russian, Spanish and Catalan.
On the CHS Board, Geoff Brown took over from Rex Parker as Chairman in May 2015, Rex remaining on the Board. Geoff has been living in Belgium for more than 40 years and prior to becoming Chairman was a volunteer on the Helpline for more than 3 years. Laura Hoffman and Vincent Tassin also joined the Board.
Financially, CHS incurred a deficit of €11,483 in 2015 compared to a surplus of €7,576 in 2014. Total expenditure amounted to €139,729 (2014: €107,271) compared to total income of €128,246 (2014: €114,847).
The change of premises involved specific expenditure and investments amounting to almost €22,000 and during one month we were paying for both the old and new premises. Nevertheless, CHS was very fortunate and grateful to obtain sponsorship for some of the investments from the United Fund for Belgium (€10,000 for rugs for all rooms and access control equipment) and Ackroyd Publications (€1,354 for wheelchair access ramps). The overall net cost of the move was considerably less than foreseen. The running costs of the Mental Health Centre are significantly financed by contributions from CHS therapists. Although the house at Avenue des Phalènes is more expensive than the previous office block premises, it provides the required space for growth as well as a much more suitable and welcoming environment for a mental health centre. The increased occupancy costs of the centre will be covered as the number of therapists working at CHS increases.
NATO Charity Bazaar very kindly agreed to finance our application to establish a dedicated assessment and therapy room for children and families in the new premises and transferred €7,975 for this purpose in December 2015. The related costs will be incurred during 2016.
Regarding the Helpline, which costs in excess of €30,000 per year to operate, CHS receives no subsidy, unlike the 3 Belgian national language helplines which are subsidised by their respective regional authorities. CHS therefore relies on income from community associations, sponsorship, donations, the annual calendar and fund-raising events to finance its Helpline and to break even.
During 2015, following the particularly successful Duchess of Richmond’s Ball in 2015, CHS received €12,500 from the surplus. We thank BBCA and the British Embassy for their support and acknowledgement of the contribution that CHS makes to Brussels English speaking community.
We also thank those who support CHS by advertising on our website, advertising in or buying our annual calendar, making regular or one-time donations, providing support in kind through different services and by inviting CHS to events at which we can increase people’s awareness of our services.
The budget for 2016 currently foresees a deficit in excess of €18,000, mainly reflecting the costs of the assessment and therapy room for children and families and an investment of €4,000 to be able to offer educational testing in French and German as well as English, combined with a reduction of income due to the absence of a Duchess of Richmond’s Ball in 2016. While the Board is actively investigating alternative ways to increase income, CHS does in the meantime have modest cash reserves to cover this deficit if it materialises.
Regarding the future, the Board is going to focus in particular on increasing awareness of the services that CHS offers, involving more liaison with schools, national consulates and community associations and new promotional and publicity material. Furthermore, as well as increasing the number of therapists in the mental health team, other therapists, offering for example speech and language therapy, will be invited to work with CHS in order to broaden the services on offer.
CHS would not be able to continue to operate without its loyal, enthusiastic and dedicated teams of volunteers, whether on the Helpline, providing administrative support to the therapists or assisting with the many dimensions of CHS day-to-day operations (e.g. finance, building management, the website, publicity, event organisation and the annual calendar). On behalf of the Board (also volunteers), I thank them all for their contribution which enables CHS to provide its unique formula of services and support in Belgium.
Community Help Service (CHS) is a non-profit organisation that provides information, support and mental health services to people in Belgium who need help and prefer to express themselves in English, regardless of nationality and circumstances.
Patron: Her Majesty's Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium - Miss Alison Rose