Age UK branch to close and others plan redundancies

21 Jul 2020 News

A branch of Age UK has announced it will close permanently after coronavirus exacerbated its financial difficulties, while others are planning redundancies and service closures.  

Age UK Suffolk will stop operating later this week and has appointed a restructuring firm to wind-up the charity. 

Its latest accounts, for the year to March 2019, show it had an income of £2.1m, and spending of £2.5m. It had 165 employees and nearly 350 volunteers. 

Age UK operates a federated structure, with around 130 independent charities in its network.

‘Unprecedented times’

Age UK Suffolk will close on Friday. In a statement, it said: “Age UK Suffolk has faced a number of financial challenges in recent years which have been compounded by significant financial losses due to the coronavirus crisis.” 

Anthony Sheppard, chair, added: “We would like to thank all of our staff and volunteers for their hard work, dedication and commitment to our work, and to the local community for their support. 

“These are unprecedented times and we will be working as hard as we can to ensure that older people know where they can turn to for support.”

Since 2015, the charity's income has halved from £4.2m. It has been trying for some time to resolve financial difficulties, including by liaising with the national Age UK charity. 

In the charity's 2019 accounts, Sheppard wrote: “The demand for our services in Suffolk continues to grow in all areas of our activity. Our biggest impediment and continuing frustration remains our limited financial resources.

“We have extended our fundraising activity and continue to be supported by the national Age UK charity both financially and with practical assistance. With their support we are making bold plans for the future including the extension of our services and geographical spread across the county. 

“This will inevitably involve continuing change for our long-suffering staff and loyal volunteers, without whom nothing can be achieved. By their dedication and commitment, we are encouraged to be bold and proactive in our plans driven by the needs of older people and our desire to provide services that improve their independence and wellbeing.” 

Council cuts 

Age UK Suffolk's largest source of income in 2018-19 was from delivering charitable activities, amounting to £773,000. 

The accounts note that Suffolk County Council had warned the charity that there would be no funding available for its information and advice series after March 2019, and that this had led to a reduced service and four redundancies. 

Age UK Suffolk’s second largest source of income was charity shops, which raised £633,000 in the year. 

Prior to that, the charity's 2015-16 accounts had said that Suffolk County Council was warning that due to constraints on funding, the charity would be required to tender for grants and that the available money would be one-third of previous levels.  
In a bid to secure the charity's future, it became a subsidiary of the national Age UK charity during 2016-17. In 2018-19 the charity was unable to meet its financial commitments and received £450,000 in financial support from Age UK. 

Age UK Lindsey: 78 possible redundancies 

Meanwhile, Age UK Lindsey, which is based in Lincolnshire and has an annual income of £1.6m, has shut two of its services 

The services which have closed are the Independence at Home and Community Transport services. The charity has also permanently closed one of its shops. 

This has affected 78 people. 

Andy Storer, chief executive, said: “As hard as we have tried, we have been unable to secure enough funding to cover the financial losses, and I must stress that we have tried every avenue that was possibly open to us. Now, as a charity, we must take stock and move forward with our ethos of doing all we can to help older people, being at the very fore.

“Had the decisions not been made, there was a significant risk that Age UK Lindsey would have gone altogether.” 

The charity’s statement said that its income has collapsed due to coronavirus, and that it has received only “minor financial aid” from the national Age UK charity and no ongoing local government support.

Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington: Plans to close four offices 

Elsewhere, Age UK North Yorkshire and Darlington has announced plans to close four offices, and expects to make seven roles redundant. 

Helen Hunter, chief executive, said: “This proposal is a highly regrettable consequence of the huge financial impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the entire charity sector, but our absolute priority is to maintain all our frontline services in these difficult times.”

She added: “We have been able to draw on some financial support from the National Emergencies Trust, via the local authorities and community foundations, and we are very grateful for the additional funding announced by the chancellor.

“However, the reality is that, with so many charities needing help, the funding has been slow coming through at a time when revenue generation through our fundraising activities has stopped.” 

Age UK Essex: Closure of Home Help service 

Age UK Essex will permanently close its Home Help service because its board cannot guarantee the safety of staff and clients during the pandemic.

The charity plans to replace the face-to-face service with wellbeing phone calls and free emergency shopping deliveries. 

Diane Nicola, chief executive, said: “It is with the deepest regret we are announcing the closure of our face-to-face Home Help service. Our board has taken the difficult decision that it cannot guarantee to fulfil its duty of care to both staff and clients by continuing this service given the Covid-19 pandemic."

The service was suspended earlier this year and will close permanently on 3 August.  

The charity has begun redundancy consultations with the affected staff.  

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