Vranch House is a centre for the treatment of over 2,000 outpatients with physical difficulties, a provider of various therapies throughout Devon and an independent Day School in Exeter for children with significant physical difficulties.

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Last updated: 27/05/2024

Trustees and Directors Report 2008

The Devon & Exeter Spastics Society (Vranch House School & Centre)

Report of the Board of the Society for the year ended 31 March 2008

The Board of the Society presents its report and audited financial statements for the year ended 31 March 2008.

Reference and Administrative Information
Charity Name: The Devon & Exeter Spastics Society
(Working Title): Vranch House School & Centre
Charity Registration Number: 1002700
Company Registration Number: 2599511
Registered Office and Operational Address: 

Vranch House School & Centre
Pinhoe Road

Auditors: Kirk Hills, 5 Barnfield Crescent, Exeter, Devon, EX1 1RF
Bankers: NatWest, St Thomas Branch, Exeter, Devon, EX4 1DB
Solicitors: Foot Anstey, Senate Court, Exeter, EX1 1NT
Board of the Society
Mr Andrew Barge Chairman
Mr Clive Rendle Vice Chairman
Dr J H Tripp Hon Treasurer
Mr Sidney Torlot  
Mr A J Griffin  
Mrs C Tailford  
Mrs A Ballman  
Mr Norman Bartlett Chairman of Appeals
(to 26 November 2007)
Miss D Kingdon  
Mrs J Morgan  
Mrs S Mathieson  
Mr D Barnes  
Miss P Hale MBE  
Mrs J Tolman-May (from 26 Nov 2007)
Col G Wheeler (Secretary, ex officio as Chief Executive with no vote)
Miss M Boon (ex officio as Head Teacher with no vote)
Mrs G Humphreys (ex officio as Head of Therapy with no vote)
Company Secretary & Chief Executive
Colonel G Wheeler  
Board of Governors
Mr Andrew Barge Chairman
Mr Clive Rendle Vice Chairman
Col G Wheeler Secretary
Miss M Boon Head Teacher
Mrs G Humphreys Head of Therapy
Dr J H Tripp  
Mrs H Salter Staff member
Mrs J Tolman-May Parent Governor
Mrs P Harrison Parent Governor
Management Committee
Mr Andrew Barge Chairman
Mr N Bartlett (to 26 November 2007)
Col G Wheeler  
Miss M Boon  
Mrs G Humphreys  

Structure, Governance and Management

Governing Document

The organisation is a charitable company limited by guarantee (Registered Number 2599511), incorporated on the 9th of April 1991, and an independent charity (Registered Number 1002700) registered with the Charity Commission on the 15th of May 1991. It is governed by its Memorandum and Articles of Association and the Instrument of Management. Any person over the age of 18 can become a member of the charity on payment of an annual fee of £2 (for those not in work) or £5 (for those in employment). There are currently 78 members each of whom are liable to the extent of their membership fee in the event of the company being wound up. All members have the right to vote at General Meetings.

Appointment of Trustees

The number of Trustees can be set at any General Meeting but has never varied from a mean of 12 between the minimum of 8 and maximum of 16 stated in the Governing Document. Invitations to nominate Trustees are circulated every year to the membership and the senior one-third of the Trustees must resign and seek re-election every year at the Annual General Meeting. The senior officers (Chairman, Vice Chairman and Treasurer) are elected every year and the Chief Executive acts as Company Secretary. Employees of the charity may be members of the charity and the three senior employees are ex officio members of the Board of Trustees but no employee is entitled to vote at any meeting of the Trustees. The Executive Committee of the charity is known as the Board of the Society and the Board may co-opt any member of the charity to fill a specialist role.

Trustee Induction & Training

Trustees are briefed frequently on their obligations under charity and company law, the structure of the charity and its operating procedures as set out in the Memorandum and Articles of Association and in those changes in statute which bear directly on the work of the charity (principally legislation in the areas of Education and Health). A briefing document has been prepared for use in 2008 alongside a more formal induction and training process. Trustees are usually appointed because of specialist skills but the charity will meet any identified need for specialist training.


The Board of the Society has strategic oversight of the charity and meets three times a year. The Board establishes all policy for the general direction and operation of the charity and meets to review those policies and to hear a record of operations. The Board employs a Chief Executive to work with a Head Teacher and Head of Therapy to oversee, direct and drive forward the Board’s policies for the School and the Clinic (the principal operations of the charity).

The Chief Executive has delegated powers for the day-to-day operation of the Board’s policies for employment, finance, contracts, legal compliance (including Equal Opportunities), risk assessment and mitigation, Health and Safety and business development. To assist the Head Teacher and meet statutory obligations for maintained schools, the Board has established a Board of Governors for the school.

The Board of Governors has direct control of those matters bearing on the delivery of educational services; matters relating to finance, employment and resources, if not within the competence of the Governors, are referred to the Board of Trustees. The Head of Therapy is responsible to the Trustees for the full delivery of the clinical contract which includes professional and service delivery standards. In this she is assisted by the Chief Executive who retains direct control of all matters relating to the contract.

Related Parties

The Society has formal and informal arrangements and relationships with many other statutory and voluntary bodies. Principal amongst these is the Service Level Agreement with Devon Primary Care Trust for the provision of NHS clinical services in Devon. The Society also has a formal relationship with the County Council Local Education Authority which allows for the assessment of potential pupils, the formulation and issue of Statements of Special Educational Needs, the placement of pupils, the review of pupil development, the delivery of clinical services and for fixed funding.

The network of national and local charities and voluntary bodies is too complex and numerous to describe adequately but the Society retains active links with DreamAway, Whizz Kids, Children in Need, CEDA, A Brighter Tomorrow, Exeter Stroke Club and the Norman Family Trust. A similar network of local groups and individuals continues to assist the Society in raising funds for children at Vranch House and this incredibly generous and loyal support provides a much-needed and indispensable resource. It is worth noting that the children at Vranch House School raise money each year for other charities which have included Comic Relief and the Royal British Legion.

Risk Management

As a normal part of the annual business cycle the Society reviews its Risk Assessments. These include financial management, accounting, security of cash and removable assets, insurances, fire and Health & Safety. The outcome of these assessments is reported to the Trustees by the Chief Executive. The Health and Safety and Fire Risk Assessments are translated into operating policies which are available to all employees. Employees at every level are encouraged to contribute to the continuous business of risk assessment through the Staff Meetings held every month.

Objectives and Activities

The charity's objects and principal activities continues to be those of:

  1. Promoting and providing facilities for the care, education, training, treatment and welfare in their respective aspects of disabled people.
  2. Advising, helping or catering for the needs of the parents or others having the care of disabled people.

The core activities arising from these aims are the education of children with physical difficulties from the age of 2 to 12 at Vranch House School and the provision of paediatric therapy and clinical treatment to children as outpatients at locations throughout Devon. The charity has also developed Opportunity Technology, a service which designs and installs an assisted mobility track way throughout England and Wales.

Achievements and Performance

The Trustees are pleased to note that the record of operations for the year under review complied with the policies and directions set out by the Board and in some respects exceeded expectations. The Trustees approved an investment program for the year designed to permit all maintenance and new equipment needs whilst building reserves for a significant building and service development initiative in 2008/9. Elective spend across the year was held at £29,000. This sum provided £10,000 for replacement computers and a 50 inch, touch-sensitive plasma screen for the Learning Resource Centre which will be completed next year.

A further £9,000 was invested in a vehicle for the Mobility Project manager and the remaining £10,000 was spent on new equipment and maintenance. Service delivery remained at the same high levels as the preceding 3 years with 27 children on the school roll and over 1,120 children on the clinical list.

The uptake on provided services has been very encouraging, with growth in every area of activity and, particularly, out-reach work and training courses provided as part of our new funding arrangement for the school. The tenants of the old residential hostel at Hill Barton House are now in the third year of their three-year lease and negotiations will begin in 2008 for an extension.

A fundraising consultant was employed to advise and assist in the design and delivery of a campaign to generate funds for the developments planned for 4 2008/9 now known as the “Big Build”. This campaign, which will be sustained until 2009, generated £22,940 within the year under review and a total of £41,940 by the time of this report.

The Inclusion Advisory Teacher for children with Physical Difficulties appointed in 2001 with money provided by a successful application to the Department for Education and Skills Small Programmes Fund has been re-appointed for a further year from charity funds. Miss Viktoria Pavlics, a trained Conductor and Qualified Teacher, provides this highly effective programme for delivering educational and clinical services to children with Physical Difficulties.

Financial Review

The Statement of Financial Activities shows total income for the year ending the 31st of March 2008 of £1,307,032 (£1,191,976 in 2006/7). The Society's Net Current Assets stand at £787,055 (a commendable increase of £107,763 on the total of £679,292 for 2006/7). £70,782 of the Reserves is in Restricted Funds. The Society has tangible Fixed Assets of £812,351 (£847,607 in 2006/7) and Total Funds Employed of £1,599,406 (£1,526,899 in 2006/7). £550,000 of the Fixed Assets is the market valuation of Hill Barton House as of March 2006. The Society made an operating surplus of £72,507 (£26,646 in 2006/7).

Important transactions in the year include the contract income of £620,368 from the Health Authority in respect of the outpatient and clinical work. Total income from charitable sources was £123,809, (compared with a total of £91,002 in 2006/7) of which £35,807 was raised for specific (restricted) purposes The income from school fees developed much as predicted to a sum of £418,422 compared with £411,771 in the preceding year.

Reserves policy

The Trustees have established a liquid reserves policy so that it is consonant with the revenue interests of a service charity. By setting the development of liquid reserves to the equivalent of annual operating costs, revenue will be developed from interest which will enable further development in our services. The forecast level of funding is such that an operating surplus is expected for the current year and the maintained reserve is such to provide a cushion in the event that either of the largest sources of income is threatened.

Investment Policy

The Memorandum and Articles provide the Trustees with the power to make investments as they choose but consonant with current Charity Commission advice. The charity’s cash assets are spread between the Business Reserve and two Mutual Society investment accounts in accord with the stated policy of low-risk diversity.

Plans for Future Periods

The charity has re-negotiated its contract with the NHS for the provision of paediatric therapies in the community and this new contract, which deals with the challenge of the new pay structure for NHS personnel, is now in the 5 third year of a specified three year term. The Memorandum of Agreement which framed the charity’s service and financial arrangements with the Local Education Authority is holding over pending re-negotiation. This, and the NHS contract, will be replaced in 2009 by a new contract that is jointly commissioned by a multi-agency body comprising the three statutory agencies dealing with children and young adults (the NHS, the Children’s Trust and the old LEA which has been re-named Children’s and Young Peoples’ Services).

The charity continues to establish benchmarks in clinical and educational practice in order to meet its continual goal of not just meeting but exceeding service delivery standards. Preparations for the new OFSTED regime continue and the work of the NHS Child Therapy Development Team – in which our Head of Therapy plays a leading role – informs the continuous development of our clinical services. The charity has been involved in the combined agency review of the local Children’s Development Centre and it is hoped that this will lead to a re-validation of centre-based expertise, novel methods for delivering this expertise into the community and new, far more integrated, ways of working.

As noted previously, the charity will benefit from the “Big Build” planned for the summer of 2008. This bill of works includes a new outdoor store with covered access, a new Learning Resource Centre, a new entrance canopy, a rebuild of the library and the clinic and complete re-furbishment of the main physiotherapy suite.

Trustees’ Responsibilities in relation to the Financial Statements

Company law requires the trustees to prepare financial statements for each financial year which give a true and fair view of the state of affairs of the charity and at the end of the financial year and of its incoming resources and application of resources, including income and expenditure for the financial year. In preparing those financial statements the trustees are required to:

  1. select suitable accounting policies and apply them consistently;
  2. make judgements and estimates that are reasonable and prudent;
  3. prepare the financial statements on a going concern basis unless it is inappropriate to assume that the charity will continue in operation.

The trustees are responsible for keeping proper accounting records which disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the charity and enable them to ensure that the financial statements comply with the Companies Act 1985. They are also responsible for safeguarding the assets of the charity and hence for taking reasonable steps for the prevention and detection of fraud and other irregularities.

In accordance with Company Law and as the Company’s Directors, we certify that:

  • So far as we are aware there is no relevant audit information of which the company’s auditors are unaware; and
  • As the Directors of the Company we have taken all the steps that we are required to have taken in order to make ourselves aware of any relevant audit information and to establish that the charity’s auditors are aware of that information.


A resolution proposing Kirk Hills to be re-appointed as auditors of the charity will be put to the Annual General Meeting.


This report was approved by the Board of the Society (the board of directors and trustees) on the 11th of November 2008 and signed on its behalf.

A Barge