Dear Friends,

We are in very difficult times. We have never seen a pandemic like this affecting our everyday lives.  I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well. We want to let you know that SAFE is here for you and continuing to work despite all the problems around.

At our April SAFE board meeting we shared experiences on what is going on at the moment. As you know some of our Board members work in hospitals, where all holiday has been cancelled and they are on call to support their colleagues should their services be required, and some have been drafted to assist. Others are working hard to transform the way they are delivering their teaching courses to students to ensure that we continue the training of our physiotherapists and speech and language therapists of the future.

Conferences such as the European /World stroke congress in Vienna in May was postponed. People are isolated and not meant to go out in many countries and having to use and get used to new electronic means of communication in such a short period of time. Fundraising has hit unknown lows as fundraising events and initiatives have been cancelled. Face to face stroke support groups have been cancelled in most countries across Europe because people can no longer get together, and some Stroke Support Organisations have had to stop employing staff or contractors. Keeping volunteers is problematic without activities and regular communication. Normal campaigning and advocacy has ground to a halt in most countries and at EU level.

While COVID 19 is at the forefront of our thinking, stroke still exists. And we know that many of you will be at the front line of services and will be seeing the impact of COVID on individuals who have suffered from stroke. We want to hear from you, we want to know what is happening to stroke survivors in your country, we want to know what is happening to your stroke support organisations and we want to know your ideas as to how we can help. We  sent a survey to our member organisations which we are currently reviewing. We will then see how things are across the whole of Europe and will share this information to support others.

In addition to finding out how COVID 19 is affecting you and your country, SAFE must also adapt its work for 2020. Unfortunately, we will not be holding regional meetings in May and June this year, but will hold one meeting electronically on 23 June 2020. This will be a first for SAFE and we are excited to see how this will work. We have also delayed the launch of our economic burden of stroke report until the autumn this year. The SAFE General Assembly will be held in November this year and we will do this electronically if we are not able to gather you together for a face to face meeting. Our first European life after stroke forum will be moved from November this year to 12 March 2021, in Barcelona. We hope to be able to fund one representative from your SSO, and one therapist or nurse from your country, and you will also be able to pay for other delegates from your organisation.  The conference will also be open generally to delegates interested in improving life after stroke services. More information will be provided in our next members newsletter, we will update you further on exact dates and timings.

What is happening in the world is a lot for everyone to take in just now, and everyone is having to rapidly adapt their lives on a daily basis. I would like to thank all of you for all the exceptional work you are doing. Please continue to keep well and be safe, do what you can to ensure the survival and sustainability of your stroke support organisation, and we hope to hear from you soon.

With best wishes,

Jon Barrick

On behalf of the Board of SAFE