Annual Reports

Community Help Service Annual Report 2021

(On its way)

Community Help Service Annual Report 2020

Chairman’s Report for the year ended 31 December 2020

This report summarizes the activities of the CHS for the year to 31 December 2020. It includes a review of the activities of our two principal services, namely the Helpline and the Mental Health Services Centre. However, it also looks at other equally important aspects of the CHS, notably the running of our office in Avenue des Phalènes, as well as our financial results and publicity activities.

2020 will long be remembered as the year of the COVID pandemic. The virus has impacted every aspect of our personal lives and, not surprisingly, has had an equally pervasive impact on the activities of the CHS. As we welcomed in the New Year, there was a sense that 2021 would be a better year than its predecessor. However, it is already clear that there is a long way to go before our lives can return to normal, despite the promise of vaccinations in the near future. At the time of writing, we have applied to the Minister of Health and Social Affairs to see if CHS can be recognized as part of the wider health system in Belgium. This would provide access to the accelerated vaccine system for our office volunteers and Clinical Team members who are still conducting personal sessions on a regular basis.

The CHS Office

Before commenting on our main services, it has never been more appropriate than now to say a few words about the CHS office.

All aspects of our activities are managed by our Office Administrator and the team of volunteers. Throughout the pandemic they have managed to keep our doors open, albeit on a partial basis, to provide much needed services to the community. Rigorous procedures have been established to ensure that all governmental guidelines are met – hand sanitizers, face masks, social distancing, office ventilation and regular cleaning of surfaces both to protect our own personnel and provide a safe environment for our clients. Most of this activity has been behind the scenes and largely invisible to the rest of us. On behalf of the entire CHS family, I would like to thank the team of volunteers for the tremendous efforts they have all made during this difficult time.

The Helpline

This has been a busy year for the Helpline, although total calls (including silent calls) of 4,471 are somewhat lower than the record of 5,515 last year. Some of this reduction can be attributed to the fact that a few regular callers are now limited to a specific number of calls per day, but most of the reduction is probably pandemic-related in some way.

Given the confidential and anonymous nature of the Helpline, the statistics we maintain on the calls we receive are relatively modest. However, of concern is the notable 62% increase in calls that are classified as “distress”. Whilst there are challenges in deciding when a call shifts from “Support” to “Distress”, calls involving self-harm and suicide will fall into this latter category.

Despite the pandemic, the Helpline has continued to function on a 24/7, free, confidential and anonymous basis throughout the year. Whatever the nature of a caller’s problem, a CHS volunteer (recruited, supervised and supported by two professionals from our Mental Health Services Team) has been available to listen sympathetically and provide emotional support and advice or helpful information. Inevitably, there are times when the Helpline answerphone has had to be turned on (e.g., during the holiday season when many volunteers are, themselves, away enjoying a well-earned rest). However, up-time during 2020 when the line has been actively managed by a volunteer was around 98%. This is an amazing achievement in what has been an exceptional year.

Looking to the future, with the prospect of a new phone system, we hope to be able to collect some additional, more informative call metrics such as call volume (i.e., length) or discrete callers (i.e., number of callers that eliminates multiple callers). Logistical issues with transferring the Helpline number from one volunteer to another should be simplified.

Another exciting development is our membership of Befrienders Worldwide, an umbrella organization bringing together over 340 independent emotional support centres in over 30 countries. Discussions are in progress with the UK Samaritans, another BW member, to secure access to their Core Development training programmes. This will undoubtedly enhance the quality of our existing training materials.

In my report last year, I mentioned some of the barriers we face in recruiting and retaining Helpline volunteers, the biggest of which was the need to attend physical meetings on a weekly basis. However, as the result of COVID, all such meetings have had to be held on Zoom. Whilst the benefits of face-to-face contact cannot be completely replaced by technology, it is evident to the CHS Board that weekly Zoom meetings are likely to become the rule, not the exception from now on. That said, we are in the process of installing state-of-the-art equipment in the CHS Offices that will enable hybrid meetings (i.e., part Zoom on screen, part face-to-face) to take place in the near future. We hope this will give us the best of both worlds.

We ended the year with a total of 26 Helpline volunteers, a 25% increase on last year despite having had to say goodbye to a number of our long-standing Helpline supporters who have moved on to other things. Our Helpline volunteers are all anonymous so I will not name names. Suffice it to say, our team of Helpline volunteers and their two Clinical Team supervisors do an amazing job and we are all indebted to them.

The Mental Health Services Centre

Given that the CHS offices have been operating with a reduced number of volunteers for a large part of the year due to the pandemic, the number of intakes this year of 1,054 is truly remarkable when compared to last year’s record-breaking year of 1,183. In line with our prior year experience, our intakes represented over 40 different nationalities, although the UK, USA, Belgium and Germany continue to account for the majority of these individuals. A slight increase in Belgian clients (with a corresponding reduction in UK nationals) may well be the result of Brexit as long-term expats obtain a second nationality.

These unprecedented levels of demand continue to place a certain amount of strain on the entire CHS team – therapists and office staff alike. Although total intakes are slightly lower than 2019, it seems that those that are currently seeing a therapist are staying longer in therapy than was the case before. As a result, the Clinical Team is working at full capacity and doing their very best to manage these intakes in-house rather than refer them to third party professionals.

During 2020, the Clinical Team has remained relatively stable with 18 therapists divided between the Children’s Team and the Adult’s Team. We also have four “Affiliated Members” who provide a range of complementary services (e.g., an Art Therapist, a Dietitian, a Family Mediator and a Global Health Coach). We hope to be able to add an Occupational Therapist to our team of Affiliated Members before long and we are looking for a psychiatrist for the Adult’s Team to replace a recent departure.

At the end of the year, the Clinical Team directorate of Lisa Classen, Marie-Thérèse Kastl and Chana Schneps stood down and have been replaced by Alessia Ciani, Berta Figueras and Nicole Josephson. On behalf of the CHS Board I would like to thank Lisa, Marie-Thérèse and Chana for their many years of service to the CHS family. I would also like to welcome the new team of Alessia Ciani, Berta Figueras and Nicole Josephson.

We are all grateful to the entire Clinical Team who, due to the pandemic, have been unable to use the CHS consulting rooms as frequently as they would have liked but who, nevertheless, have continued to provide crucial financial support to our ongoing activities.

Financial Results

The last two years have seen the CHS return to a surplus and, despite the challenges of the pandemic, we have been able to generate another surplus in 2020. Current indications are for a surplus of €18,880 compared to €23,762 in 2019. Having moved to an accruals basis of accounting in 2019, this year’s results fairly reflect our activities in 2020 and the income and expenditure arising therefrom.

A brief summary is shown in the table below:

The Mental Health Services Centre continued to perform strongly in 2020 although income levels were down largely due to a pandemic-related rebate given in May to compensate for the partial closure of the CHS offices. Costs were only slightly lower than the previous year, despite the lockdown, but this merely reflects the fact that the vast majority of MHSC costs are largely fixed, notably rent.

The Helpline generated an increased surplus over 2019. Whilst income from events completely dried up during the year, sponsorship of the CHS Website and advertising revenues from the CHS Calendar totalling €13,075 were well ahead of expectations. In part this reflected some unaccrued income from 2019, but the overall result was pleasing.

Unlike the experience with the Mental Health Services Centre, Helpline costs were much lower than budget primarily due to the shift to weekly Zoom meetings (as opposed to in-person meetings) and the fact that travel allowances were no longer being paid to our volunteers.

During the year we drew down €13,993 (2019: €16,462) from the cumulative US Dollar and Euro funds held on our behalf by the King Baudouin Foundation. Although donations into these funds are received on a regular basis, they are only taken to income when physically received into the CHS bank account. As at 31 December 2020 there was approximately €24,000 (2019: €12,000) and US$ 800 (2019: US$5,000) still held by KBF and available for draw down in future years.

Other Matters

Given the absence of events during the year, there has been little opportunity for Board Members and other volunteers to promote our activities in the broader community. That said, our free 2021 Calendar has been well received and our stocks are virtually depleted. With the ongoing support of ING who cover the costs of printing, we plan to increase the number of calendars published in 2022 as it continues to contain a wealth of valuable information that is essential to anyone moving to Belgium for the first time.

The CHS website and Social Media sites continue to be a primary source for contact with the wider community. The website enjoyed over 50,000 page views in 2020 and in the month to mid-December 2020 over 10,000 people found the CHS on Google. Our Facebook page continues to increase its effectiveness reaching over 1,500 people in November 2020, a 200% increase over the previous month. However, there is much more that can be done to improve and expand our Internet presence, especially on media platforms which reach a younger audience. We are all grateful to our new Publicity Coordinator, Markaya Henderson, who has taken over this important area.

Conclusion

2020 has been a year of challenge but a year in which much progress has been made. Our Mental Health Services Centre is working at near full capacity; our Helpline has more active volunteers than has been the case for many years; our finances continue to improve and there are some exiting projects in the pipeline that will further enhance the quality of the services we provide.

In closing last year’s report during the first lockdown of 2020, I reflected on our role and concluded that there was never likely to be a time when what we did would be of such relevance to the wider community. At that time, lockdown was a new experience for us all. But in its early stages we actually saw a fall in intakes to the Mental Health Services Centre as well as reduced calls to the Helpline. But as the pandemic has continued, way longer than anyone originally predicted, we are now seeing the impact that sustained restrictions can have on people’s mental health. Not only are Helpline calls increasing again but the nature of those calls is changing, with an increasing number of people in distress. This puts pressure on everyone in the CHS family.

2021 will be another difficult year for everyone. But I am convinced that the CHS is in excellent shape and ready for the challenges that lie ahead.

Jeremy Jennings
Chairman
April 2021

Community Help Service Annual Report 2019

Chairman’s Report

This report summarizes the activities of the CHS for the year to 31 December 2019. It includes discussion on the activities of the Helpline and the Mental Health Services Centre as well as the other aspects of CHS, notably our financial results, events schedule, website and communications.

The Helpline

This has been another busy year with calls to the Helpline, excluding silent calls, totalling 4,710. This represents an increase of over 13% on the previous year. The Helpline continues to function on a 24/7, free, confidential and anonymous basis. Whatever a caller’s problem, a CHS volunteer (recruited, supervised and supported by two professionals from our Mental Health Services Team) is available to listen sympathetically and provide emotional support or helpful information.

Over the years we have seen a gradual reduction in the number of calls to the Helpline from people seeking information. This is, without doubt, directly related to the expanding use of the internet across a wide swathe of the population. However, the decline in information related calls (roughly 8% of all calls in 2019) is also due to the exponential increase in mental-health related calls.

During the year a number of our long-standing Helpline supporters have moved on to other ventures. At the end of the year we had 21 Helpline volunteers, although not all of these are active and/or available all of the time. Although there is no shortage of willing volunteers who are keen to join the Helpline team, it is true that our internal requirements (e.g., regular attendance at weekly meetings of Helpline volunteers) can prove to be an insurmountable barrier for some, especially those in full or even part-time employment.

The Mental Health Services Centre

Similar to the Helpline experience, this has been a record-breaking year with nearly 1,200 new “intakes” during the year – a 23% increase on 2018. And we see no sign of this trend reversing with 175 new intakes in January 2020 alone. In line with our prior year experience, our intakes represented over 40 different nationalities, although the UK, USA, Belgium and Germany account for the majority (roughly 75%).

These unprecedented levels of demand are placing a certain amount of strain on the entire CHS team – therapists and office staff alike, but we are doing our very best to manage these intakes in-house rather than refer them to third party professionals. Even in January 2020, we were able to allocate over 92% of intakes to a CHS professional.

During 2019, the Clinical Team has remained relatively stable with around 17 therapists divided between the Children’s Team and the Adult’s Team. We also have an additional three “Affiliated Members” who provide a range of complementary services (e.g., an Art Therapist, a Dietician and a Family Mediator). We continue to look for one additional Affiliated Member as well as two clinical psychologists (one for each team) as well as a separate psychiatrist for the Adult’s Team.

Financial Results

After a series of years where we have struggled to cover our costs and had to eat away at our cumulative reserves, 2019 was another good year from a financial perspective. After a return to a net surplus of €8,997 in 2018 we generated a further surplus of €23,761 for 2019.

For the first time we have moved from a standard cash-basis of accounting to a more stringent accruals basis as this provides a much better alignment of our income and expenses with our activities in a given period. The effect of this change in accounting policy has been to reduce our 2019 surplus by just under €4,000 due to a combination of capitalising the purchase of new furniture and testing materials (which serve to increase our surplus) but providing for 2019 expenses that were not paid until 2020 (which serve to reduce our surplus).

A brief summary is shown in the table below:

Whilst the Mental Health Services Centre generated a better than budget surplus for the year, we know that MHSC revenues are heavily dependant upon maintaining the Clinical Team at its current size. The loss of just one member of the Clinical Team can have a negative impact on the bottom line by anything up to €10,000.

As more fully discussed below, our numerous fund-raising events have helped move the Helpline into surplus. However, included in Helpline receipts is an amount of €16,462 which we drew down against the Funds held on our behalf by the King Baudouin Foundation. These amounts are only taken to income when physically received into the CHS bank accounts. As at 31 December 2019 there is approximately €12,000 held by KBF in Euro and $5,000 held in US dollars.

Events

During 2019, CHS volunteers either attended or helped to organise nearly 40 specific events. These ranged from independent fund-raising activities organised by our numerous supporters (e.g., the British Chamber of Commerce’s Quintessential British Jolly and the BBCA’s Christmas Party) as well as Christmas Markets at local schools (e.g., the British School of Brussels and the Da Vinci International School), and Charity Concerts (e.g., the Carmel Dempsey Band and the International Chorale Concert).

Whilst fund-raising is an important component of our events calendar, we also need to raise awareness about the CHS’s role in the wider community in order both to recruit new volunteers and, more importantly, reach out to those segments of the population (e.g., the elderly or students) that could benefit from our services. CHS participation at seven separate workshops run by ING and Bright Expats and targeted at the expatriate community in Belgium, all helped fly the CHS flag and attract new volunteers. Our 2020 Calendar, the costs of which are also covered by ING, was also a popular give-away at these events as it contains a wealth of valuable information that is essential to anyone moving to Belgium for the first time.

Conclusion

Whilst mental health statistics are often several years out of date by the time they are published, it is very clear from our activities in 2019 that the importance and relevance of a mental health Helpline has never been greater. Although the stigma attached to mental health issues (whether from a third-party or personal perspective) may be slowly diminishing, there is still scope for significant improvement. Today, people seem to be more comfortable in talking about their mental-health related issues than was the case a decade ago and companies have elevated mental health to the level of the Boardroom. But as the pressures of modern life continue to increase, it is likely that demand for the services the CHS offers will continue to grow.

We are indebted to all our sponsors for their financial support over the past year and hope that this support will continue into the future, although, at time of writing, we find ourselves in the grips of a global pandemic and that future is uncertain. I will not dwell on this subject in what is, essentially, a report on our activities and performance in 2019. However, the relevance of an organisation such as CHS in the current environment has never been greater. 2020 will be a year of significant challenge for everyone but I am confident that the CHS is well placed to respond to these challenges and continue to do what it does best.

Finally, a note of thanks to every member of the CHS family – office volunteers, Helpline volunteers, the Mental Health team and the Board for their dedication and commitment over the past year.

Jeremy Jennings
Chairman
May 2020

Community Help Service Annual Report 2018

Chairman’s Report

CHS has once again been very active throughout 2018, our 47th year in operation. Our Mental Health Services Centre (MHSC) at Avenue des Phalènes/Nachtvlinderslaan 26, 1000 Brussels, had 977 new “intakes” (up 23% on the 794 during 2017), again representing more than 40 nationalities. 44% were men and 56% women, 39% were aged up to 17 and 61% above.

The Centre has an international and multilingual team of professional psychiatrists, psychotherapists and psychologists (18 at the end of 2018, compared with 16 at the end of 2017) offering therapeutic services to deal with a broad range of mental health conditions, as well as psycho-educational assessments for children with learning or behavioural difficulties. There are two teams, one dealing with adults and the other with children, adolescents and families. Details of the therapists, their professional qualifications, therapeutic approach and languages spoken are available on our website.

The construction of the new United Arab Emirates Consulate building neighbouring CHS was completed in December 2018 and the return to relative calm in Avenue des Phalènes has been very welcome for patients, therapists and volunteers alike.

Our 24/7 Helpline in English (02 648 40 14), which is free, anonymous and confidential, and available to children, adolescents and adults, was kept busy during the year, taking more than 4,000 calls. Whatever a caller’s problem, a CHS volunteer (recruited, supervised and supported by mental health professionals) is available to listen sympathetically and provide emotional support or helpful information.

While mental health services and the Helpline are the core CHS activities, another group of professionals referred to as Affiliated Members was created during 2017 and is now well settled into CHS, providing a variety of non-mental health services from the 3rd floor of our premises, specifically art therapy, cranio-sacral therapy and family mediation. Full details are available on our website.

In order to continue increasing awareness about CHS amongst the international community, we participated in many events during the year, those organised for example by ING, BNPPF, The Bulletin, Vlerick Business School, the European Commission, Brussels British Community Association, the British Chamber of Commerce in Belgium, Citywork Brussels, Bright Expats and several international schools. We remain active on social media.

During 2018, CHS was also represented at the international community’s 24-hour “Relay for Life” (raising funds for cancer research), the first “Darkness into Light” event in Brussels (to raise awareness about the global fight against suicide and self-harm) and the 20 km of Brussels.

Financially, CHS fortunately returned to a financial surplus of €8,997 in 2018 after several years of deficits.

The €24,608 net increase in total receipts principally relates to higher contributions from Clinical Team therapists and Affiliated Members (€17,673) website sponsorship (€6,800), sponsorship from Cera towards a metro station publicity campaign for the Helpline (€2,000), offset by lower receipts from the CHS calendar (€1,927).

Total expenditure increased by €5,273, mainly reflecting a several-year catch-up for commune taxes (€9,915), some building-related improvements (€2,172), the cost of the metro station publicity campaign referred to above (€3,088) and rent indexation (€1,864). On the positive side, the cost of promotional materials decreased by €5,090 after the major investment in our new range during 2017, Helpline telephone costs decreased by €3,945 thanks to a new tariff from Proximus, and costs for materials required for psycho-educational assessments decreased by €2,259.

The MHSC costs were comfortably covered thanks to the contributions from therapists and Affiliated Members.

The financial situation with the Helpline is more challenging but is definitely improving. While the French, Flemish and German-speaking helplines are all subsidised by their respective regional authorities, CHS receives no subsidies. We therefore have to seek out and rely on other sources of income such as the sale of/advertising in our annual calendar, sponsorship (many thanks again to our sponsors!), fund-raising events (a special thank you again to Brussels New Generation), and donations.

During 2016, the well-respected King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) agreed to establish a “Friends of CHS” fund within both KBF Belgium and KBF United States. These funds permit donors to make tax-efficient donations to support the financing of the CHS Helpline. (Full information on how to donate is included in the “How You Can Help” section of the CHS website.) KBF manages the funds and issues donors with the necessary documentation to obtain their tax deductions. KBF receives a management fee of 5% on these donations.

Up to 31 December 2018, the “Friends of CHS Fund” within KBF Belgium (in €) and “American Friends of CHS in Belgium Fund” within KBF US (in US$) have evolved as follows:

€1,140 of the donations to KBF Belgium in 2018 was raised in connection with the 20 km of Brussels, up from €520 in 2017.

While it has taken time to build relationships with the corporate community, we have recently made very encouraging progress and are hopeful that the two funds will become a sustainable source of financing for the Helpline.

A very big thank you to all who have made donations whether directly to CHS or via KBF. These include companies as well as business, community and school associations, churches, sports clubs and individuals.

The 2019 budget foresees an overall surplus of €4,707, with both the Helpline and MHSC covering their costs. At least €12,000 of the funds in the KBF Belgium fund will be transferred to CHS during 2019 to finance the Helpline.

At the Annual General Meeting in May 2018, the following changes took place:

  • Some modifications to the CHS statutes were approved;
  • Geoff Brown and Magda Buyse Kelley were re-elected as Chair and Secretary respectively;
  • Beverley Warner-Keltjens replaced Sue Borger as Office Administrator;
  • Jeremy Jennings and Daniel Pyster were appointed to the Board;
  • There was a change of Helpline representative; and
  • Ola Ajadi resigned from the Board.

In December 2018, Marie-Thérèse Kastl stood down as CHS Clinical Director and was replaced by Lisa Classen. Stuart Gregory also resigned from the Board. Many thanks to Sue, Ola, Marie-Thérèse and Stuart.

Volunteers continue to play a vital role in CHS. Around 20 support the therapists in the Clinical Team and look after the administrative aspects of the organisation. A separate group, ideally of +/- 30 but sometimes considerably less (we are regularly looking for new candidates …) operates the Helpline, and Board members also give their time freely. I would like to thank them all, as well as the Clinical Team and Affiliated Members, for all that they contribute to CHS which enables us to provide our unique package of support services to the Belgian international community.

I would also like to thank our Patron, Alison Rose, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, for her continued support of CHS during 2018. We were delighted when she came to visit our premises in March 2019, meeting with some therapists, affiliated members, office and Helpline volunteers and Board members. We all noted and greatly appreciated her interest in and enthusiasm for our work. We wish her well with her appointment as Principal of Newnham College, Cambridge, which she will take up in September.

Finally, after four years as Chair of CHS, I will be standing down at the AGM in May, continuing as a volunteer. I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and experience and thank everybody at CHS and those that I have met and worked with elsewhere in the Belgian and international communities.

I am delighted that Board member Jeremy Jennings, in Belgium since 1990 and well known in the business community, will be taking over as Chair and I wish him well.

Geoff Brown
Chairman

29 April 2019

Community Help Service (CHS) is a non-profit organisation established in 1971 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.

Community Help Service Annual Report 2017

Chairman’s Report

Our Mental Health Services Centre, at Avenue des Phalènes/Nachtvlinderslaan 26, 1000 Brussels, (off Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, close to ULB), was contacted by 794 patients (up almost 8% on the 737 in 2016) representing more than 40 nationalities, reflecting the diversity of the international community using our services. Of the 794, 46% were men and 54% women, 38% were aged up to 17 and 62% above.

The Centre has an international and multilingual team (16 at the end of 2017) of professional psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists offering therapeutic services to deal with a broad range of mental health conditions, as well as psycho-educational assessments for children with learning or behavioural difficulties. There are two teams, one dealing with adults and the other with children, adolescents and families. Details of the therapists, their professional qualifications, therapeutic approach and spoken languages are available on our website.

Throughout most of 2017, building construction work going on immediately beside CHS has periodically resulted in considerable noise disruption, not an ideal environment for patients and therapists. At times this will have been very difficult and I thank everyone for their patience. As of April 2018, the project seems to be advancing well, so hopefully the situation will settle down again in the coming months.

Our 24/7 Helpline in English (02 648 40 14), available to children, adolescents and adults, is free, anonymous and confidential and was kept very busy during the year. Whatever a caller’s problem, a CHS volunteer (recruited, supervised and supported by mental health professionals) is always there to offer support or provide information. While mental health services and the Helpline are the core of CHS, another group of professionals, referred to as Affiliated Members, started in September to provide a variety of non-mental health services from the 3rd floor of our premises e.g. art therapy and family mediation. Full details are available on our website.

We expanded our range of promotional materials and now have four brochures covering the Helpline, Mental Health Services Centre, Psycho-Educational Assessments and CHS in general, as well as beer mats promoting the Helpline which are periodically distributed to pubs in Brussels, and boxes of tissues promoting CHS. In order to increase awareness about CHS, we participated at numerous events throughout 2017 organised by e.g. ING, BNPPF, The Bulletin, Vlerick Business School, the European Commission, BBCA, BritCham, the American Club of Brussels and numerous Christmas markets, and we have been much more active on social media, especially on 10 October, World Mental Health Day.

Financially, CHS unfortunately incurred a deficit again in 2017, amounting to €10,338 (2016: €11,536). Total expenditure amounted to €120,216 (2016: €120,553) with receipts amounting to €109,878 (2016: €109,017).

The running costs of the Mental Health Services Centre (MHSC) are generally financed by contributions from the therapists working with CHS. Total MHSC income amounted to €88,830 in 2017 (2016: €82,270) whereas expenditure amounted to €88,630 (2016: €91,370). The swing from a deficit in 2016 to a minor surplus in 2017 primarily reflects higher contributions from the gradually increasing number in the Clinical Team as well as the five new Affiliated Members.

The financial situation with the Helpline is more challenging. While the French, Flemish and German-speaking helplines are all subsidised by their respective regional authorities, CHS receives no subsidies whatsoever. We therefore have to seek out and rely on other sources of income such as the sale of/advertising in our annual calendar, sponsorship (thank you to our sponsors!), fund-raising events, contributions from community associations, and donations from companies, churches, school associations and individuals. In recent years, the amount of income raised has not been sufficient to cover the Helpline running costs, resulting in a deficit of €10,538 in 2017 (2016: €2,436). These recent deficits are gradually depleting the organisation’s modest cash reserves. Income relating to the Helpline in 2017 amounted to €21,048 (2016: €26,747) whereas expenditure amounted to €31,586 (2016: €29,183).

During 2016, the well-respected King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) created a “Friends of CHS” fund within KBF in Belgium to help raise funds for our Helpline. I would appeal to and encourage companies and individuals to support our Helpline via KBF – donations in excess of €40 during a calendar year qualify for a tax certificate which permits a 45% tax deduction in Belgium. KBF issue the certificate early the following year.

Donors in the U.S. can also support the CHS Helpline in a tax-efficient way through a contribution to the “American Friends of CHS in Belgium Fund” at KBF in the United States (KBFUS). Because KBFUS is a public charity (within the meaning of Sections 501(c)(3) and 509(a)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code), donors may claim the maximum tax benefits allowed by U.S. tax law for their contributions. We were especially fortunate to receive one donation of $5,000 during 2017.

At the end of €2017, the KBF Belgium fund held €2,420 and the KBF US fund held $390. During 2017, $5,500 had been transferred from KBF US to CHS. Many thanks to all those who made donations.

In terms of other support:• The under-35s group within the British Chamber of Commerce, “Brussels New Generation” again raised funds for the Helpline during 2017 – €375 from the Charity Bake-off and €583 from two pub quizzes.• Towards the end of 2017, Proximus offered a new tariff for Helpline calls which is expected to significantly reduce this dimension of the running costs.• Euroclear donated some office furniture and equipment.

The budget for 2018 foresees another deficit of around €6,000, linked to the Helpline, with the MHSC-related income covering its costs. However, we will be trying very hard during 2018 to identify additional donors for both of the KBF funds to better finance the Helpline. At the Annual General Meeting in June 2017, Ken Inglis retired from the CHS Board after many years’ service (many thanks again Ken!) and Michael Penning and Julie-Anne Stennett joined the team.

Volunteers play a vital role in CHS. Around 20 support the therapists in the Clinical Team and look after the administrative aspects of the organisation, a separate group ideally of up to 30 (we are regularly looking for new candidates) operates the Helpline, and all Board members also give their time freely. I would like to thank them, together with the Clinical Team and Affiliated Members, for all that they do to allow CHS to provide our unique package of support services to the Belgian international community.

Finally, I would like to thank our Patron, Alison Rose, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, for her continued support of CHS during 2017.

Geoff Brown
Chairman24 April 2018

Community Help Service (CHS) is a non-profit organisation established in 1971 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.

Community Help Service Annual Report 2016

Chairman’s Report

2016 was another busy year for CHS. Expertly guided by Board member Laura Hoffman, we initiated a comprehensive review of our vision, mission, goals and approach to visual & written communication with our constituents. We worked with FTI Consulting in Brussels (who generously worked on a pro bono basis) and, as well as adopting a new logo, we developed a comprehensive new range of promotional material. While our partnership with FTI Consulting ceased at the end of 2016, we now have brochures, posters, banners, business cards, beer mats and tissues – with our thanks also going to Mireille Robbe of PRO 5. In addition, we upgraded our website and became increasingly active on social media.

We also reconsidered our core values. These are:

Confidentiality: Everything we do is with guaranteed anonymity and a high degree of privacy. We are trustworthy people in whom those coming to or calling CHS can have confidence.

Professionalism: All those working with CHS, including volunteers, are fully trained and qualified.

A non-judgmental attitude: Our mutually supportive environment values every person

Reliability: Our services include regular opening hours and a 24/7 Helpline for round-the-clock assistance and support.

We are now in an excellent position to launch a new campaign to increase awareness about CHS. We want all members of the Belgian international community who find it easier to communicate in English rather than French and Dutch to know about CHS in case they need to seek support for themselves, family members, friends, neighbours or colleagues. To help achieve this, we particularly want to work more closely with other mental health care professionals, doctors, hospitals, schools, churches, national consulates and community associations.

Our Helpline is an anonymous, confidential, 24/7 telephone service in English for children, adolescents and adults. It received more than 2,500 calls during 2016. It is operated by around 30 volunteers (trained, supported and supervised by professional therapists) who can provide general information, emotional support or help in a crisis

Our Mental Health Services Centre, at Avenue des Phalènes/Nachtvlinderslaan 26, 1000 Brussels (off Avenue Franklin Roosevelt, close to ULB), has an international team (15 at the end of 2016) of professional psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists offering therapeutic services to deal with a broad range of mental health conditions, as well as psycho-educational assessments for children. There are two teams, one dealing with adults and the other with children, adolescents and families. Around 20 volunteers support the therapists, taking initial calls from clients, arranging appointments and welcoming clients, whilst also looking after the day-to-day running of CHS and the Centre.

As in 2014 and 2015, more than 700 clients contacted the Mental Health Services Centre during 2016, representing almost 40 nationalities, an indication of the diversity of the people using our services. While all therapists working with CHS speak fluent English, individual members also work in other languages.

Starting early in 2016, psycho-educational assessments in French and German were added to the service in English.

Financially, CHS incurred a deficit of €11,536 in 2016, similar to the €11,483 deficit in 2015. Total expenditure amounted to €120,553 (2015: €139,729) compared to total income of €109,017 (2015: €128,246).

The 2015 deficit was primarily due to exceptional costs linked to our change of premises.

In December 2015, NATO Charity Bazaar donated €7,975 to finance a dedicated assessment and therapy room for children and families but the related costs were incurred during 2016.

The running costs of the Mental Health Services Centre are significantly financed by contributions from CHS therapists, whereas the Helpline, which costs more than €30,000 per year to operate, is completely dependent on external funding. CHS receives no subsidies, unlike the three Belgian national language helplines which are subsidised by their respective regional authorities.

One significant development during 2016 was receiving agreement from the well-respected King Baudouin Foundation (KBF) to create a “Friends of CHS” fund within KBF in Belgium to help raise funds for our Helpline. Companies and individuals making donations in excess of €40 during a calendar year to this fund will receive tax certificates from KBF early the following year, permitting a 45% tax deduction in Belgium.

U.S. donors can also support the CHS Helpline in a tax-efficient way through a contribution to the “American Friends of CHS in Belgium Fund” at KBF in the United States (KBFUS). Because KBFUS is a public charity (within the meaning of Sections 501(c)(3) and 509(a)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code), donors may claim the maximum tax benefits allowed by U.S. tax law for their contributions.

During 2016, we were grateful to receive generous financial support, notably from the British and Commonwealth Women’s Club of Brussels (€3,136), the Brussels British Community Association (€1,500) and the Brussels New Generation dimension of the British Chamber of Commerce which supported CHS via their 2016 Charity Bake-off (€1,085) and two pub quizzes (€1,028).

We really appreciate all those who help CHS in other ways, such as advertising on our website, advertising in or buying our annual calendar, or inviting us to participate at events where we can increase people’s awareness of our services.

The budget for 2017 foresees a surplus of just over €7,000. This assumes that we can successfully attract at least €15,000 in donations via the “Friends of CHS” funds at KBF in Belgium and the U.S. (our most important financial objective for 2017). It also takes into account the increase in the number of therapists who will work with CHS, which should increase therapist contributions by €11,000. Total expenses are again expected to be around €120,000.

As indicated above, we are increasing the number of therapists in our Clinical Team and are hoping to attract other professionals to work with CHS – specialising, for example, in speech and language therapy, graphomotor (handwriting) therapy, occupational therapy, remedial teaching and learning support – thereby broadening the range of services we offer. We would also like to attract more volunteers, both for our Helpline and especially to assist with outreach to the community and fundraising.

Some building work started in May 2017 on an embassy/consulate site directly adjacent to the CHS premises and I ask CHS therapists, volunteers and clients to be understanding and patient during the inevitable noise and inconvenience that this project will entail.

There were some changes to the CHS Board during 2016, with former Chairman Rex Parker, Treasurer Neil Anderson, CHS Office Administrator Anne Arthur and Vincent Tassin resigning at the AGM in May. I thank them all for their different contributions to CHS. We welcomed Sue Borger as CHS Office Administrator, Stephen Mazurkiewicz as Treasurer as well as Ola Ajadi and Stuart Gregory.

CHS is unique in the way it offers its services and support in Belgium. It also brings together a great ‘family’ of people eager to help those in need while also enjoying the CHS working environment. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank our loyal, enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers, who take calls on the Helpline, provide support to the therapists and/or assist with the many dimensions of CHS day-to-day operations (e.g. finance, building management, the website, publicity, event organisation and the annual calendar), and our very talented and committed teams of therapists.

Finally, I would like to thank our Patron, Alison Rose, Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, for her continued support of CHS during 2016.

Geoff Brown
Chairman16 May 2017

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.

Community Help Service Annual Report 2015

Chairman’s Report

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.

Geoff Brown
Chairman
May 2016

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.

Community Help Service Annual Report 2014

Chairman’s Report

In its 45 years of life, the challenges for CHS have changed, but not diminished. CHS was founded to provide support for an expatriate community heavily centred on those with English as their mother tongue. Brussels has changed considerably in those years and the community wishing to use English has widened, and will continue to change. Many more residents who have need of our support are not native English speakers, but have English as their first foreign language. CHS has adapted its approach and will continue to evolve to provide support within this diverse community.

During 2014 a number of board changes occurred with Anne Arthur replacing Magda Kelley as administrator in October, Marie-Therese Kastl becoming clinical director in place of Harry Pomerantz in December and the resignation in Q4 of Jo Ann Broger. The organisation extends great appreciation for their contributions to our ongoing success to the members leaving and warmly welcomes their successors.

The Helpline continues to provide a 24/7 confidential listening and information service to the English-speaking community in Belgium. The Helpline is staffed by trained volunteers, under the supervision of professional therapists. The number of calls handled by the Helpline was almost 3,600 during the past year. This compares with over 2,700 in 2013 which was already more than 20% higher than in 2012.

The Mental Health Centre had the services of an average of 15 therapists in 2014. These psychologists and psychiatrists, working as a team, cover most disciplines for both adults and children. This is the only practice in Brussels that combines such a range of support skills, all available in English and other languages. During 2014 the number of new requests for appointments increased to just over 730. Since most people require several sessions with a therapist to alleviate or solve their problem, our resources and facilities remain at a very high occupancy rate and we are exploring how we can add more therapists in the future.

Our therapists have a multinational background and although all speak fluent English for many it is not their native tongue, reflecting the mix of our patient base.

Financially, CHS had a good year with an apparent gain in 2014 of just over Euro 7,500 compensating for the loss in the previous financial year. In reality the benefit was a couple of thousands euro lower since part of the gain was due to an accounting correction from some years ago. However, the additional finances will be needed in 2015 since we will be forced to relocate to new offices thus incurring both moving costs and almost certainly a higher monthly rent. Once again this highlights the need for more routine financial support, and companies who may wish to help us under their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes are being sought. Income sources continue to be underpinned by the therapists’ contributions to infrastructure operating costs, for which we are very grateful.

The calendar and sponsorship are the main other sources of income for the Helpline, and we are once again extremely grateful to the BBCA for their generous support .For the third year we were a recipient of some of the surplus from the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball and we thank both the BBCA and the British Embassy for their acknowledgement of our contributions to Brussels English speaking society. Thanks are also given to all other sponsors and organisations who contributed to our funding throughout the year with a particular mention for Euroclear Bank for financing a CHS publicity campaign in the Brussels metro cars and St Anthony’s church which once more ran a quiz night from which the benefits were donated to CHS.

In addition to the fund raising activities a conference was held on the subject of “Burnout”. This took place in the ISB auditorium, which the school kindly offered to us, and was opened by our patron the British Ambassador Alison Rose.

Our website continues to develop under the guidance of Maggie Inglis and ideas for further enhancement of the site are in hand. Our Twitter and Facebook sites are also evolving under the expert guidance of Niki Daun.

2014 was the first full year of successful cooperation with a UK based addiction clinic Castle Craig, which has confirmed that they will be very happy to continue this cooperation through 2015.

Internally, we keep operating costs under tight control and constant review. Here we are aided by the invaluable support of the many people who work as volunteers for CHS.

Without volunteers, CHS could not function. About 25 people ensure the 24/7 coverage of the Helpline by working shifts. Another dozen or so people support the office and the smooth running of the Mental Health Centre, event organisation, outreach and publicity. Money is important, but without the hours put in by the office staff, all of whom are unpaid, CHS would not exist. All volunteers are to be thanked and congratulated for their support and enthusiasm.

Rex Parker
Chairman

Community Help Service is a non-profit organisation that provides information, support, assistance and mental health services to anyone in Belgium who needs help and prefers to speak English, regardless of nationality and circumstances.

Patron: Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium – Miss Alison Rose

Community Help Service Annual Report 2013

Chairman’s Report

In its 44 years of life, the challenges for CHS have changed, but not diminished. CHS was founded to provide support for an expatriate community heavily centred on those with English as their mother tongue. Brussels has changed considerably in those years and the community wishing to use English has widened, and will continue to change. Many more residents who have need of our support are not native English speakers, but have English as their first foreign language. CHS has adapted in its approach and will continue to evolve to provide support within this diverse community.

In the fourth quarter Neil Anderson took over as acting Treasurer, replacing David Lewis whose travel commitments have made it very difficult for him to continue in his role at CHS.

The Help Line continues to provide a 24/7 confidential listening and information service to the English-speaking community in Belgium, mainly of course in Brussels. The Help Line is staffed by trained volunteers, under the supervision of professional therapists. The number of calls handled by the Help Line increased in 2013 to more than 2700 during the past year. This increase takes the number handled to more than 20% higher than in 2012.

The Mental Health Centre, despite a number of changes in personnel, had the services of an average of 15 therapists in 2013. These psychologists and psychiatrists, working as a team, cover most disciplines for both adults and children. This is the only practice in Brussels that combines such a range of support skills, all available in English and other languages. During 2013 the number of new requests for appointments fell to just over 600, a reduction of 12% compared to the previous year. Since most people require several sessions with a therapist to alleviate or solve their problem, our resources and facilities remain at a very high occupancy rate.

Our therapists have a multinational background and although all speak fluent English for many it is not their native tongue, reflecting the mix of our patient base.

Financially, CHS had a poor year with a loss in 2013 of just over Euro 3,000. The loss can be overcome through previously built up reserves. However the result again highlights the need for more routine financial support, and companies who may wish to help us under their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes are being sought. Income sources continue to be underpinned by the therapists’ contributions to infrastructure operating costs, for which we are very grateful.

The calendar and sponsorship are the main sources of income for the Help Line, and in addition we are extremely grateful to the BBCA for their generous support .For the third year we were a recipient of some of the surplus from the Duchess of Richmond’s Ball and we thank both the BBCA and the British Embassy for their acknowledgement of our contributions to Brussels English speaking society. Thanks are also given to all other sponsors and organisations who contributed to our funding throughout the year with a particular mention for St Anthony’s church which ran a quiz night from which the benefits were donated to CHS.

In addition to fund raising for ourselves a CHS team, led by Gerry Cain participated in the 2013 Relay for Life and succeed in both having great fun and raising nearly Euro 2,500 for the charity fund.

Our new website went on line in the fourth quarter and thanks to free help with the design from PelicanDream and FTI Consulting is a major step forward enabling the routine updates to be handled in house by Maggie Inglis. Coupled with this change we have successfully launched our Twitter and Facebook sites and these are admirably looked after by Niki Daun.

In the fourth quarter we also began a new phase of cooperation by working with a UK based addiction clinic Castle Craig.

Internally, we keep operating costs under tight control and constant review. Here we are aided by the invaluable support of the many people who work as volunteers for CHS.

Without volunteers, CHS could not function. About 25 people ensure the 24/7 coverage of the Help Line by working shifts. Another dozen or so people support the office and the smooth running of the Mental Health Practice, event organisation, outreach and publicity. Money is important, but without the hours put in by the office staff, all of whom are unpaid, CHS would not exist. All volunteers are to be thanked and congratulated for their support and enthusiasm.

Rex Parker
Chairman

Community Help Service is a non-profit organisation that provides information, support, assistance and mental health services to anyone in Belgium who needs help and prefers to speak English, regardless of nationality and circumstances.

Patron: Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium – Mr J Brenton