Proposed Changes to the Natural England Helpline Bat Advice Service
Natural England are reviewing the future of the Bat Advice Service, which is currently delivered by the National Bat Helpline. We have been regularly communicating with bat groups about this review process and our concerns.
We are delighted to report, following high-level discussions between BCT’s Senior Management Team and relevant Government contacts, that support from Defra has now been reinstated for the 2018/19 financial year. This will allow us to continue our disease risk management work including running the Out of Hours Service.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who contacted us to offer help and donations towards the National Bat Helpline service. Please rest assured your donations will be put to good use as we will still have a funding shortfall for the service during 2018/19, as the information below highlights. This year’s appeal to Bat Groups will be circulated in the next few weeks and will be focussed on the Helpline. Thank you again to everyone who has donated so far.
Some bat groups have asked for a little more information about how the Helpline is funded, and how this sits within the whole of BCT. We have not completed our year end accounts for 2017/18 so the figures are not yet finalised, but income for the whole of BCT in 2017/18 was in the region of £1.2m. See the pie chart for a breakdown of funding for the National Bat Helpline in the same period with some explanatory bullet points below.
- Natural England – as you can see the largest part of the Helpline funding is currently for the Bat Advice Service funded by Natural England. The funding for this will be reduced in 2018/19 but we do not yet have a final figure.
- Department of Health (DoH) – our work to ensure that the public deal with bats safely, taking into account the risk of rabies, was originally jointly funded by Defra and DoH. The DoH withdrew their funding in 2011 and this service has been subsidised by BCT since then.
- Defra – the Defra funding has remained the same for a number of years (no inflationary rise), but was withdrawn at short notice this year. After lobbying the 18/19 funding has been reinstated, but is likely to be reduced in future years.
- Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) – this is funding for the EBLV passive surveillance scheme and supporting APHA on wider diseases surveillance work. This is secure for 18/19.
- Donations/grants/BCT reserves – this was the predicted deficit for the Helpline (in addition to the £24k deficit from the lost DoH funding). We were successful in achieving approx. £12k donations from bat groups and individuals during 2017/18, which reduced the deficit. Thank you all for your help with this!
We really are grateful for the continuing support of bat groups, bat carers, our members and other supporters. If you have any questions about anything included in this Special Edition Bulletin please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
To check previous BCT Updates on this please click here.