Letter: Childbirth trust relies on volunteers

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Sir: The letter from Diana Winstanley (10 May) accuses the National Childbirth Trust of having become "an increasingly top-heavy centralised operation".

I would like to know on what evidence she makes this assertion. The NCT has 55,000 members and 400 branches. It provides services (antenatal classes, breastfeeding counselling and local support networks), publishes reliable information, and campaigns for improvements in maternity care and support for parenting. This year alone, we have published research and made recommendations on antenatal screening, lobbied for a reduction in the caesarean section rate and an end to court-ordered caesareans, and created a "breastfeeding- friendly" symbol with Waterstone's to be launched in breastfeeding awareness week, 19-24 May. We do all this with only 27.5 whole-time equivalent paid staff and many thousands of hours of volunteers' time.

At present those who use our services and become members of the NCT do not fully reflect the diversity of parents in the UK. We need to broaden our fundraising base if we are to offer accessible, affirmative and affordable services to the parents of all 700,000 new babies each year. We have planned for a balance between increasing membership rates and extending sponsorship arrangements.

Ironically, if there had been a greater investment in the centre sooner, our management and financial planning would have been smoother and more clearly communicated. In the words of the Charity Commissioners, "effective and efficient administration cannot be bought on the cheap" (1990, para. 82).

MARY NEWBURN

Head of Policy Research

The National Childbirth Trust

London W3

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