Beaverbrooks donates headquarters to carers charity

An extraordinary act of generosity by Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust will enable a front line carers' charity to reach out and help potentially thousands of 'hidden' carers in health and social welfare black spot Blackpool.

The charitable trust, which gives 20 per cent of post tax profits to charity each year on behalf of the third generation family run jewellery retail empire, stepped in and bought the property outright - after being asked to 'chip in'.

Chairman Mark Adlestone and director Andrew Brown, who received an MBE for services to charity, have handed over a landmark Blackpool building, used for years for child support services, to Carers Trust Fylde Coast Carers Centre in what is National Carers Week (June 8-14).

The historic property, formerly known as Blenheim House on Newton Drive, is to become the headquarters of the campaigning charity which is 10 years old this year.

However, the charity needs to make good the mess left by metal thieves who moved in after the NHS-run child development centre relocated to Whitegate Drive Health Centre in August. Walls were smashed and floorboards ripped up as metal was almost forensically stripped as thieves worked their way methodically through the building. Very few rooms have been left intact.

The former Blackpool Carers Centre will also begin a £750,000 capital funding campaign, £50,000 of which is hoped will come from the Lancashire community.

Plans for the new headquarters have been prepared pro bono by the Frank Whittle Partnership and are available to view on the charity’s website and at the charity's offices and outlets. The scheme will go out to tender after consultations.

The building was bought under sealed bid from owners Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – which stipulated some form of social care continue there. This saving grace more than likely spared the 19th century building from demolition.

The no-strings-attached deal has been announced in National Carers Week as the 10 year old charity embarks on ambitious plans to grow the service.

“We couldn’t ask for a better gift,” charity chief executive Michelle Smith admits. “Beaverbrooks have taken my breath away. They are so giving of time, expertise and support. We’re going to make Beaverbrooks House shine as the jewel in their crown.”

Beaverbrooks chairman Mark Adlestone, recently named Best Leader in the Sunday Times Best Companies List, an award he’s won four times before, explained: “We’re doing this because it’s the right thing to do, that simple.

“It’s not about ticking boxes for corporate social responsibility; we’re anti the politicisation of CSR.

“For us, it’s all about sharing our success. We give because we’ve a heart to. We have great people working for us who support great charities – and that makes us feel great too.

"What else would we do with the money? We measure our worth not by what we own but what we give. We know the good this charity does.”

Since 2000 Beaverbrooks has given in excess of £8m to charity. It encourages 900 colleagues to support time giving initiatives and tax efficient salary sacrifice schemes that benefit good causes. This year each employee will receive £100 to give to the charity of their choice following discussion with colleagues. The company already sponsors both the annual 10k fun run and the bike ride for Trinity the Hospice in the Fylde.

Beaverbrooks stepped in after the charity’s case was presented by their own property manager Steve Cassidy – who became a trustee of the carers charity after volunteering to help under the company’s time giving initiative four years ago.

Adlestone and Brown, who Mark describes as his mentor, returned with a magnanimous offer to buy the property outright for the charity’s use.

“It must have been some presentation – I was hoping for an interest-free loan,” admits Steve who is now leading the working party.

“I’ve worked with Beaverbrooks for 20 years and know what Andrew and Mark are like but never expected this; I was flabbergasted. Our core value as a company is enriching lives and this will do just that for carers; it will have a significant impact on supporting people.”

The charity, which already helps more than 3,000 local unpaid carers, aims to reach up to 13,000 more ‘hidden’ carers (a figure revealed by the last census). Blackpool Tower is lighting up blue – with magenta heart – in honour of the charity from Monday to Wednesday of carers week to help shine a light on the plight of hidden carers.

The charity is also running a three month corporate Cash Quest 4 Carers business challenge to fund a Young Carers Champion – with local businesses invited to attend the launch event on Thursday (June 11) from 1pm-3pm at the Village Herons Reach, Blackpool.

The aim is to turn an initial £50 starter stake (refundable!) into as much money as is legally and ethically possible. The current young carers champion Lauren Codling, 20, has lobbied parliament, health and welfare chiefs and spoken on radio and TV and also oversees business development at the charity's allied social enterprise. Local young carers have featured on the national BBC network this week with more coverage to come in local and regional radio and press. One John Joyce, 50, who looks after wife Bev, 53, who has MS, heads a council department but is also carving out a cult following on social media as the Ice Cold Chef. Bev taught him how to cook the moment her diagnosis was known. He's now teaching other carers, running courses for young carers, and has caught the eye of celebrity chefs.

Lauren added: "We're very inventive in Blackpool when it comes to getting our case across - and there are many inspirational carers, young and old out there. I think more people are waking up to what carers do... and that these are not paid care givers or workers but friends, family doing it out of love or duty or responsibility for loved ones. And they expect and get very little in return. Three in five of us will become carers. If that doesn't focus minds - what will? We desperately need new HQ to offer more services. The damage is saddening, yes, but it's not the end of the world, it's a fresh start for us."

Carers are estimated to save the state up to £130bn in social welfare costs. Such is demand that Carers Trust Fylde Coast has outgrown its current base Norman House off Robson Way, Blackpool.

Blenheim House stands in an acre of land, off a busy main road, Newton Drive, between Blackpool Victoria Hospital and the town centre.

It is not listed but is of social historical significance as it was originally built in the late 19th century as two semi detached residences for the well to do - including a brewery chief and a former director of the Winter Gardens and Tower.

The building was fit to move into when it closed in August – but metal thieves moved in and smashed through walls and ripped up floorboards to remove copper piping and other metals. Very few rooms remain intact. The damage had been done before prospective buyers viewed it in November so the building was purchased sight - and site - seen.

Charity chief Smith adds: “From the outside it still looks fabulous; it was shocking and upsetting to see what had happened within. It’s not mindless vandalism but methodical theft by people who couldn’t care less.”

But the damage hasn’t taken the shine off the 10th anniversary gift by Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust which is believed to have paid a six figure sum under sealed bid.

Michelle stressed: “We saw past the damage to the potential. It still has everything going for it for us. It’s an epic challenge but this beautiful historic landmark has done an awful lot of good over the years and will do so again under our custodianship.”

The formal exchange was brokered between Beaverbrooks chiefs Adlestone and Brown for use by Carers Trust Fylde Coast by NHS trust chairman Ian Johnson, chief executive Gary Doherty and deputy chief executive Wendy Swift. Martin Long, head of the Blackpool and Fylde office of Lancashire law firm Napthens, has acted for the Carers Trust for a number of years, and said: “We are proud to be involved with the Carers Trust, an organisation which does great work in the area providing much-needed services and support to carers. This news will mean the future of the trust is secure for many years to come, and gives room to expand the work being done. I look forward to seeing the trust grow as a result.”