The funding landscape for many third sector organisations has been challenging over the past year. FAST also experienced a funding shortfall in the year 2011-12 and this led to a review by the staff team and Trustee Board of the options for the year. Considerable effort was made by the team to secure income generating contracts and grants over the year which could provide an opportunity to influence major research programmes and to develop service improvement initiatives. This work was successful and income substantially increased over the year 2012-13, resulting in a higher level of reserves moving into 2013-14.
However the funding uncertainty meant that two members of the FAST team, Pat Sweet and Sam Collin, decided to move on from FAST; Pat to become a freelance journalist and Sam to develop her career within the charity finance sector. It was very sad to lose Pat Sweet, a long-term member of staff who has worked closely with researchers across the UK. Fortunately we were able to recruit Aidan Parr, who has previously worked as a FAST researcher, and this has enabled us to have a good continuity of contact with the research community. With Aidan’s expertise in assistive technology, the quality of the information gathered for our annual report to Parliament, which is also made available on the FAST website, is higher than ever.
With his knowledge of education and engagement of older people, Aidan has also been able to provide support to another of FAST’s projects, the i2web project, which aims to provide guidance to developers of web 2.0 applications to enable access for disabled and older people. Previously this work was undertaken by Sam Collin who was also able to contribute her expertise as an assistive technology user. This project is coming to a close with successful testing of the i2web guide and tools with disabled and older people, web commissioners and developers.
FAST enters 2013-14 with a good level of reserves and a strong team. Current contracts for work with the i-focus dallas project and to provide monitoring support for the Technology Strategy Board, mean that FAST is well placed to identify research priorities that will meet the needs of disabled and older people. FAST believes there is a significant role for the organisation in working with sector partners to identify how to shape a mixed consumer and statutory market to best embed quality in standards for service delivery.
FAST continues to deliver the Annual Report to Parliament which documents the research and development activity funded by the UK government. This year’s report is notable for the level of projects undertaken in the UK that are resulting in commercially available products. This is something that FAST has been encouraging for some time as it is the only way to enable disabled and older people to get hold of the technologies that can transform their lives.
We look forward to a year of consolidation of this past year’s successes.
A society where people are able to easily get hold of assistive technology (AT), at a reasonable cost, which is a pleasure to use and employs state of the art design and materials.
FAST aims to raise awareness of emerging assistive technology, supporting the development of innovative products and working to ensure their rapid adoption. In this way the organisation seeks to directly assist disabled and older people to maximise their independence.
Through participation in the EU-funded i2Web project which is looking at accessibility standards for Web 2.0 applications, FAST also hopes to support European-wide good practice on digital inclusion for disabled people.
FAST’s Director works as a project monitor on behalf of ALIP, for projects that are looking at the Economic and Business modelling of telecare and telehealth services. This work not only helps to support projects to meet the needs of disabled and older people, but extends FAST’s knowledge of the sector and of opportunities to participate in initiatives to influence future service delivery.
Delivery of this year’s Annual Report to Parliament has been completed on time and the final draft has been submitted to the Department of Health. FAST works productively with the research community to gather the information for the report, which is held in the freely available database on FAST’s website. This year there was a strong response to FAST’s request for information from research teams with a 64% return rate.
FAST continues to provide free information for the sector on research activity, funding opportunities, jobs and events. FAST’s free monthly e-bulletin on policy and service innovation activity is warmly received by the sector and the numbers of subscribers has risen from the original 364 to 1056 at May 2013. Subscription levels for the monthly Research and Development e-bulletin has also risen from the original 256 to 697 subscribers at May 2013. With the recruitment of Aidan Parr to the FAST team we were also able to start up a regular twitter feed in September and the account now has 320 Twitter followers who sign up for regular timely information on the AT sector.
FAST continues to support RAATE, the only interdisciplinary UK conference showcasing the latest developments in AT. FAST takes an active role on the organising committee, helping to secure a high number and quality of papers submitted for presentation. FAST’s team contributes to conferences, and editorial and advisory panels across the sector, supporting a range of sector interest groups.
Download the Annual Report and Accounts 2012-13 (Pdf format 138 kb)