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An update from Steph Harland, CEO Age UK

Where are we now?

Age UK's CEO explains the changes Age UK has made during the coronavirus outbreak, and details of our 3-year recovery plan.

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The last few months have been incredibly tough. Tough for us all as individuals and creating massive challenges for us as a society. But older people are among those who have been hit the hardest, especially those who are on their own or those with underlying health conditions who are most at risk from this current pandemic.

The latest reports make clear that these tough times are set to continue as we head into winter. Coronavirus cases are rising, seasonal flu is on its way and there will be the usual pressures on older people’s health and wellbeing during the cold months. And all this against a backdrop of the increasingly worrying evidence of the impact the months of lockdown and shielding have already had on older people.

Age UK’s continued commitment

At Age UK, we are determined to be ready to respond and we are doing everything in our power to ensure this, despite the financial challenges this pandemic has brought.

We, like many other organisations, have seen a significant impact on our finances during the last few months. Our income has been affected across the board, but most notably we’ve felt the impact of the sudden and immediate closure of all our charity shops for several months and the cancellation of many fundraising events.

Making difficult decisions

This has meant we have had to take many cost saving measures. Sadly, we have had to say goodbye to many valued colleagues from across the charity, despite the valuable lifeline that the furlough scheme offered us. We’ve made the difficult decision to close a third of our shops permanently. However painful these actions are though, we’ve been driven by the conviction that we have to do everything we can to help those older people who need us the most, now more than ever.

These have and continue to be unprecedented times and there are no quick fixes. In addition to the decisive actions we have already taken, we will also draw on our reserves this year and have drawn up a 3-year recovery plan. This plan includes ongoing changes and savings needed to ensure the Charity remains in a sustainable financial shape and so that we can continue to provide the help that older people are looking for, especially as a result of this pandemic.

Further plans

Next year, and the year after, we will need to reduce the amount we spend on supporting our local and national partners in the Age UK network; we have protected our support to them this year because of the crisis but we cannot afford to sustain it, as much as we would wish to. We will also need to reduce our spend on international work.

By planning savings over a longer period, we are allowing for the possibility that things can get better rather than worse. If we raise more or save more, we may be able to spend more. If we raise less or save less, we will need to spend less. And if we spend more in one area, we will need to spend less in another. Ultimately, it’s no more complicated than that.

The challenging road ahead

This is very much a marathon, not a sprint, and even though we’ve made a strong start there is a long way to go. We are cheered by the immense support we’ve had – from the customers in our shops, the incredible response to our emergency appeal, the letters and emails of support and the tireless efforts from all who work or volunteer with Age UK.

We will continue to rely on that support as we move into what will be a really challenging winter. We hope we continue to inspire people to support us, to support the older people in their communities and that people get in touch to see how we can help.

We hope our plan is successful but if we need to take further action, we will, for the sake of the older people we exist to support.

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Last updated: Sep 29 2020

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