Ian Foy, Managing Director of Age UK Trading CIC, talks about why Age UKs social enterprise approach is innovative and helps the Charity to support older people in more ways than one…
At Age UK we believe we can help everyone to make the most of later life. To achieve this we support older people in a number of ways - by offering free information, advice and support to over 6m people; paid-for products and services to over 1m customers; and research and campaigns on the issues that matter to people in later life.
Some people are surprised you can buy products from Age UK. However, as well as being a national charity, Age UK is very proud to be a social enterprise. This means that part of our organisation sells specially-selected products and services that enhance later life. The profits are then gift aided back to help fund our charitable activity - the essential difference between a social enterprise and a ‘business’.
We believe Age UK plays an important role by filling gaps in the market with new products and by addressing market failures. We’re committed to working with our product partners to provide excellent products and solutions, and offer outstanding customer service across a wide range of independent living aids, health care and technology products. We also offer a range of financial products, such as insurance, with no upper age limit.
As you’d expect, we take our responsibilities to our customers, indeed to all older people, very seriously. We want to make sure we offer a really high-quality service to our customers, and that we make the best use of every pound we raise through our social enterprise.
We believe our social enterprise has a number of advantages for older customers such as:
- Expanding choice and offering innovation: Older people shouldn’t have to settle for products and services that are second best or that do not meet their needs. The products Age UK offers have been developed with older people in mind. For example, by working with Breezie, we’re offering an easy way to access the internet, of particular relevance to the many older people who have never been online and who are put off by the complexity of many products on offer.
- Encouraging healthy competition: There are more people in the UK aged 60 and above than there are under 18 and this is a significant proportion of society with their own needs and desires. We believe older people should have the choice and control to make decisions about their lives, and by having a presence in the market we hope to improve standards overall.
- Improving customer care: Age UK exists to help make the lives of older people better and this applies to our products and services offering as well. We’re committed to providing all our customers with the highest level of service and we have measures in place to constantly monitor and improve the ‘customer journey’ to get this right. We know that occasionally things do go wrong, though. When they do, we want people to know where and how to complain and to be confident that their complaint will be treated seriously and that we will act on it swiftly and appropriately.
Finding the right partner for our products and services can take anything from 12 months to 4 years. We go through a rigorous process and all our partners must meet all the standards set by Age UK. Each partnership takes into account the specific needs and considerations of older people by offering features such as specialist support and guidance to make the right choice, money back guarantees and extended guarantees, product design and/or optional home consultations, which can be more convenient for older people.
Our partnerships are built on shared values with the needs of older people at the centre. We look for products and services which are unique and relevant to older people and work with experts in their fields, from factory, supplier, and manufacturer, to sales and aftercare services, all in line with our core values.
We know that the products we offer can transform someone’s life, whether it means helping them get up and down the stairs at home, or improving their ability to hear. For a full range of the products available from Age UK please visit www.ageuk.org.uk/shop or call on 0800 169 6565.
I’m always keen to hear from our customers about the service we offer and their experience of it so that we can be as good as we can possibly be. Anyone wanting to get in touch can call Age UK on 0800 169 8787 when lines are open from Mon-Fri, 8.30am-5.30pm or by emailing me at email@example.com.