Leadership announcements

Annual Report and Accounts 2017

Introduction by Professor Sir Robert Burgess
  • Authors:
    Guy Goodwin
    Professor Sir Robert Burgess
  • Publishing date:
    1 December 2017

The 2016-17 year has been a very good one for the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen). As Chairman of the Trustees, I am presenting this annual report along with the audited financial statements for the year to 30 June 2017.

The statements show a strong financial performance, a growth in revenues year-on-year and a welcome return to annual surplus under the new Chief Executive.

Over the past year, we have been working on a new long-term strategy “Towards 2025” which sets out the next stage in NatCen’s journey. It is an opportune time for this as we approach our 50th anniversary in 2019. We will build on our existing strengths: those 50 years of experience, a reputation for excellence, unique data collection capability and a UK wide presence. But we are also looking for improved focus on a wider range of customers, greater impact, more partnerships and an expansion into new areas across the social sciences.

Behind the strategy sits our charitable aim to use social research to improve lives. We will be making the transition from primarily a social survey organisation to establishing ourselves as The National Centre for Social Research. NatCen wants to become the place that people go to if they want to understand our society; an independent voice at the heart of the big debates; innovative on methods and the new opportunities in social research; and bigger and broader in our scope than we are today.

The last 12 months have been very good for NatCen. We continue to be the place government goes to for its social research and household surveys. We have broadened our base of customers, won more contracts and grown our team of social scientists. NatCen has also retained all three of the existing, large survey contracts that were recommissioned this year - the National Travel Survey, the National Diet and Nutrition Survey and the Scottish Health Survey, providing a welcome endorsement from our customers and a solid base for our survey work into the future.

Our impact on policy making and informing the public has been considerable. The general election, which followed a year after the decision to leave the European Union in a national referendum, saw a welcome focus on the state of our society and the impact of the “austerity” years on people’s lives. It has provided renewed interest in what the public wants and in our British and Scottish Social Attitudes Surveys, along with the new NatCen Panel, on topics such as Europe, Scottish independence, international migration and the economy.

Perhaps, the best example of impact this year was achieved through the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey which is the main source of data on the mental condition of the population in England. It showed that around one in six adults have a common mental disorder and young women, in particular, have become a high risk group: 26% of women aged 16- 24 reported symptoms of common mental disorders in one week, compared with 9% of men. The findings were covered widely across the national media, sending alarm bells to a host of stakeholders with an interest in policy around mental health. Our researchers presented the findings to the All Party Parliamentary Groups on suicide and self-harm prevention and on sex equality, as well as to campaigning charities such as the Mental Health Foundation. In direct response to the study, the Government established a new Women’s Mental Health Task Force aimed at “championing action to tackle the findings” of the survey.

However, our customer reach and impact has grown more generally over the year with new partnerships and involvement in Research Centres, a greater range of evaluations for customers, cognitive interviewing and methodological support, as well a full range of qualitative and quantitative work, including secondary analysis. As part of this report, we have provided a separate section on our activities and on public benefit, presenting case studies of some of our work that has made impact during the year.

The impressive impact has been achieved despite the difficult financial climate over the last year, including for research organisations.

As mentioned above, our own financial performance has seen a turnaround with a strong financial performance generating increased revenues of £33m in 2016/17, up 10%, resulting in net income of just under £400k for the year. Our pension deficit reduced by £700k; resulting in an overall improvement in our financial position of £1.1m. This is an excellent result for the organisation under its new Leadership Team. We retain an established long term plan in place to address our pensions deficit as defined in our reserves policy.

Our role as Trustees is to provide stewardship of the organisation. We have overseen many changes within the organisation to modernise and streamline our organisation and as a Board we are confident that NatCen is in a stronger position to continue to deliver the high quality and impactful research that society needs.

Finally, I would like to thank my colleagues on the Board for their ongoing commitment to NatCen and their continued willingness to lend their expertise, experience, challenge and insight. In addition, I would like to thank the enthusiastic, skilled and committed staff at NatCen who continue to develop our research and disseminate our findings, thereby contributing to better policy-making.