Brake annual reception, January 2015

Speech by Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive

Good evening. I always feel incredibly proud to stand here and look across a room packed with people who share our passion for safer streets and support for road crash victims, people who work so hard alongside us. I’m especially proud to do this now, alongside Brake’s CE and founder, in Brake’s 20th year.

Brake remains relatively small, but we are growing in size, reach and influence. We’re doing more each year, with your help. We now have 30 staff members, and an income of £1.1 million. We work incredibly hard with limited resources, to speak out, inform, educate, engage and support.

Last year our helpline supported more families devastated by road death and injury than ever before: 545 cases, through 2,000 calls and emails, including for the first time many UK families bereaved through crashes abroad thanks to partnership working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

We were thrilled to receive accreditation from the Helplines Partnership, recognising the quality of our support, which includes emotional comfort, practical and procedural advice, signposting and advocacy. Feedback shows the enormous difference this makes to so many suffering victims.

But as we move into 2015, we’re conscious that not all road crash victims can access our help, and despite your backing, our team remains stretched. Hence we’re seeking increased funding to develop our serious injury support, partnership work with hospitals, and grow our capacity so we can move, alongside our partners, towards all crash victims being referred to support.

As well as developing our support work, we continued to engage communities across the UK, helping them raise awareness to prevent casualties. Last year 53,000 children marched for road safety in our Giant Walk, and learnt some key lessons on the way. We engaged 500 nurseries in our long-running Beep Beep! Day initiative.

Community engagement is another key area of development for us. We want to run our projects for schools and nurseries on a far bigger scale. We especially want to develop and expand our programme on engaging young people, to help tackle casualties among this at-risk group.

We recognise that working in partnership with professionals in local authorities, emergency services and companies is essential to promoting road safety. Our Brake Professionals scheme now has 1,200 members, and last year we delivered 25 research bulletins, 10 reports, and 40 webinars, seminars and courses, to share information and best practice.

This year, we’ll continue to share research and tools, with a focus on developing our webinars and multi-media resources, to help professionals deliver road safety work as effectively as possible.

As most of you know, we also continue to coordinate the UK’s biggest road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. We had a record year last year, thanks to your help and an ongoing Department for Transport grant. Nearly 10,000 schools and groups registered to be involved, all getting an action pack. We ran a successful media campaign calling on everyone to look out for each other, especially highlighting drivers’ responsibilities to protect people.

In 2015, Road Safety Week is 23-29 November and we hope you’ll all be involved. We will again use the event to promote road safety at community level, and run a high-impact campaign, drawing attention to the links between road safety, the environment, and health.

That continues to be a key theme for us across our campaigning, throughout the year, as our influence continues to grow through social and traditional media, online, and public affairs work.

Our GO 20 campaign, calling for 20 limits to become the norm for safer walking and cycling, gained further momentum last year. We linked up with more charities, organisations and MPs, and shared good practice among the rising number of local authorities switching to 20mph.

Our campaigning work also saw some significant victories, with Scotland introducing a lower drink drive limit, an announcement of a government review of charges and penalties for driving offences, and progress towards a zero tolerance drug drive law, coming in on 2nd March.

But we still have a long way to go, before our laws are fully in line with research and best practice, and we have a truly safe system that enables everyone to get around without fear or threat, sustainably and actively. It’s that principle we’ll continue to champion in 2015 and beyond.
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Across all our work, we have grown. Growth enables us to support more crash victims in need, deliver more life-saving education and awareness, help more communities and professionals, and campaign ever more vociferously.

As we move into our 20th year, we are on the cusp of not just becoming a bigger, more impactful organisation, but one that is at the forefront of driving a shift in how we use roads and approach road safety, a shift that will not only prevent terrible, needless tragedies but enable everyone to live greener, healthier, happier lives.

For us to continue to grow, and make that step, your support is critical. So I’d like to finish with a plea, for everyone here to do everything in their power to support Brake this year. If you can, step up your company’s support. Back our campaigns. Become a professional member. And please fundraise for us, to help mark our 20th year.

I will be running a little over 20 miles in the London marathon, and you can sponsor me tonight, so please do! But please also consider how you and your organisations can work with us to make things happen throughout this year and into the future.

I’m now delighted to welcome Robert Goodwill MP, under secretary of state for transport, with responsibility for road safety.

Thank you.