Allergy UK Annual Review 2020-2021

The British Allergy Foundation was formed in 1991 by a group of leading UK allergists who believed that those living with allergic disease have the right to good quality support, education, and advice about their condition throughout their lives. The UK health system only provides limited allergy services and the British Allergy Foundation, operating as Allergy UK since 2001, is the charitable organisation established to fill the gap and provide this support. It also lobbies and advocates for improved recognition of the seriousness of allergy and its impact on the quality of life of those living with allergic disease.

Allergy UK’s mission is to ‘raise the profile of allergy at all levels and to ensure that everyone affected by allergy receives the best possible care and support by increasing awareness, knowledge, and understanding of allergic disease’. Working closely with healthcare professionals and other partners in the field of allergy and immunology in the UK, Europe, and across the globe, as well as patients and their families, it aims to drive forward advances in diagnosis, prevention, treatment and management of the full range of allergic disease (e.g. food, respiratory, skin, venom, drug and occupational allergies) and encompasses all degrees of severity from mild and moderate to acute reactions, including anaphylaxis.

Message from the Chair and Chief Executive

Just recently we were talking to a mother of two teenage girls who are moving onto adulthood, both of whom live with allergy so severe that their allergic reactions have led to many anaphylactic shocks. Their allergic disease has had a huge impact on their quality of life and on their family members, especially psychologically. She told us about someone recently asking her why a patient organisation was so important; why do we need patient organisations?

Her reply was that Allergy UK was like ‘family to her family’. We’d been there throughout their lives, since the children were infants, when she made that first desperate called to our Helpline for advice, when she spoke to us about her anxiety and concerns as they moved through transition times, like starting school, and when they were going on holiday and worried about language barriers. More recently she sought advice on other important issues, such as COVID-19 vaccinations for her family.

She told us that they had a great relationship with and support from their clinicians, but their appointments were every few years, so to whom did they turn in between? Allergy UK. She said the relationship they had with Allergy UK was constant and we were always there for them, whenever they needed us – like family.

This mother’s story meant so much to us.

Allergy UK will have been here for people like this mother and her family for 30 years in 2021. Our charity’s aim is to support individuals and families living with allergy, raise awareness of their issues and try to find ways to ‘fill the gap’ to meet their needs because of the dearth of allergy services available in the UK. Despite three decades of lobbying, and some improvements, sadly allergic disease is still not taken seriously enough in the UK.

We receive no funding from government and have always been reliant on our own income through our trading subsidiary. When we launched our new Strategy for Change in 2020, with our mission that “It’s time the UK took allergy seriously”, who’d have known that our aim to develop our fundraising strategy would have coincided with a year of a global pandemic!

We made a start on our plans for fundraising development and growth, but in a very difficult economic environment. That is why we are so grateful to everyone who got involved in challenge events to raise money for our charity and donated to our emergency appeals last year. Your involvement – donations, collaborations, grants, and sponsorship enabled our charity to carry on providing information, advice and support services to people living with allergy during these challenging times. From the activities outlined in this Report we hope you will see our continued commitment to improving the quality of life for those living with allergy as well as the impact that your generous support has had for these individuals and families.

We also started to modernise our engagement, through enhancing and expanding our digital communications. This had to be swiftly implemented in 2020/21, as restrictions meant a move from face- to-face activities to online engagement. Our sponsors agreed to a flexible approach as we digitalised projects, which was very much appreciated. And our allergic community adapted amazingly well. This has continued in 2021 with our summer camp for families becoming a very successful Camp in the Cloud.

We know it’s been an incredibly hard period for everyone, and this includes charities like Allergy UK.

Our strong end of year results have only been achieved through making some very difficult survival decisions during 2020/21, as discussed in the Challenges and Risks and Financial Review sections of this report. Our trading subsidiary income was 30% down on predicted budget last year, aligning with the predicted economic downturn. In a difficult year we were extremely fortunate to be left a legacy which provided a much-needed financial cushion. We are very grateful to Miss Shirley Anne Tidmarsh and her Executors for this thoughtful and generous contribution in support of the allergic community, which made such a difference to our charity in challenging times.

Despite the adaptations to resources, our year end was positive. As we move into 2021/22, which is our 30th anniversary year, thankfully we are in a position to develop our campaigning work as we raise awareness of the lived experience of allergy and advocate for the UK to take allergy seriously.

Sadly, in this year, our Vice President, Mary Brydon OBE, has retired after 30 years involvement with our charity. Mary was one of the clinical expert founders of Allergy UK, and we thank her sincerely for her enormous contribution to the field of allergy, which is detailed in the report.

We also want to thank everyone who has continued to support Allergy UK throughout the pandemic period and into 2021. With your support we can continue to work closely with families and individuals whose lives have been impacted by allergic disease and provide that supportive ‘gap’ in allergy services – until everyone in the UK takes allergy seriously.