The roots of Age UK Stockport go back to 1946 when an Old People's Welfare Committee was formed, specifically devoted to the welfare of elderly people in the Stockport area. Back at the start one volunteer provided an advice and information service for local elderly people.
Age UK Stockport’s roots are shared with the wider Age Concern movement and lie in the Second World War, when everyone was experiencing shortages and particularly many older people.
Age UK Stockport has always been and remains a local charity but has grown from a small local group known as the Stockport ‘Older People’s Welfare Committee’, who worked under the umbrella of the Council for Voluntary Services, to the large independent local charity of today.
It has involved many changes, developments and several different names. However despite much growth and the many changes the "raison d'être" has remained the same throughout – to work positively with and for the older people of Stockport.
The origins of Age Concern at a national level are inextricably linked to the upheaval of the Second World War, which made life more difficult for older people in many ways but also revealed their existing problems, particularly the unsuitability of Poor Law provision. The Old Age and Widows Pensions Act (1940) introduced the system of supplementary pensions for elderly people.
The National Old People’s Welfare Committee (NOPWC), chaired by Eleanor Rathbone, was founded in 1940 and £2000 was raised through a radio appeal to help with the wartime emergency. Visiting schemes for elderly evacuees were established, along with an Old People's Homes Advisory Service.
Local Old People's Welfare Committees (OPWCs) appeared in its wake and the numbers kept on growing after the war. In 1946, the NOPWC agreed upon a model constitution for local OPWC`s, deciding that their functions would be to co-ordinate and facilitate local action, and it was at this time that Stockport Old People’s Welfare Committee was established.
By 1950 there were 831 Old People’s Welfare Committee’s (OPWCs). These were the forerunners of the many Age Concern Organisations and Groups across England and Wales. After the war help was still needed and the Welfare Committees continued, becoming independent in 1950. With the advent of the welfare state, government money became available to fund work with older people. The National OPWC co-ordinated and facilitated the work of an increasing number of committees.
Although the network was growing throughout the 1950s, few local committees had paid organisers to cope with the administration and many were short of finance and volunteers. By the end of the decade central government, which had initially stressed that voluntary organisations should take on the development of domiciliary services, was aware of these problems. The NOPWC made efforts to improve the situation and to help local committees with obtaining finance for some staff and administrative costs. In 1955 the NOPWC became a Council rather than a Committee to emphasise and explain its co-ordinating function.
However, local authorities became more insistent that legislative change was necessary so that they could develop adequate and uniform domiciliary services for older people. Once central government agreed, the reduced pressure of work on OPWCs, who were in some cases freed from developing services with few resources, meant that they could work to their own pace and priorities. The National Old People`s Welfare Council was also more free to concentrate on developing and improving services and policies.
During this time some Old People’s Welfare Committee’s (OPWCs) began to develop their work of informing older people about their entitlements and assisting them with social security claims. The NOPWC began to give more guidance for local groups and individuals, producing detailed information about relevant legislation, benefits and services; it was also increasingly active in pioneer work. It did not see itself as a pressure group but was consulted by government and gave information and advice to several government departments.
The Help the Aged Refugees Appeal was set up in 1961 by businessman Cecil Jackson-Cole in response to the needs of older refugees following natural disasters and conflict in the former Yugoslavia, former East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and Rwanda. The appeal raised £105,302 in its first year. The nascent organisation, renamed Help the Aged, continued to raise money for emergency aid overseas. It also became involved with projects for older people in the UK, establishing day centres and pioneering the building of better housing for older people.
In 1971 under the direction of David Hobman the National Old People’s Welfare Committee (NOPWC) became completely independent of government and the cover name Age Concern was adopted to reflect a new emphasis, focusing public opinion on the wider needs and interests of older people, instead of just the need to relieve extreme poverty.
Many local groups, including Stockport, took on the Age Concern name as time went on, and together they benefited from a unified image and a name reflecting the fact that they were not just committees but active providers of direct services.
In 1974 Age Concern Stockport developed a specialised information service for older people and started to receive referrals from social workers, health visitors and care professionals.
A local working party was set up to assess the special needs of local older people and recommended that after over 35 years of growth the Stockport Old People’s Welfare Committee should become an independent charity in its own right and in 1984 Age Concern Stockport came into being as an independent charity. The new organisation Age Concern Stockport became a Registered Charity registering with the Charity Commission under Charity Number 516912 in October 1985.
At the time when the organisation became fully independent it was operating in Lower Hillgate above their first charity shop and also developed a base at Stockport Infirmary on the main A6 for its Hospital Aftercare Services.
During this period the Pop In was opened as a place for older people with activities and a warm place to meet and have refreshments. It was named Russell Morley House after Russell Morley, Vice President of AC Stockport who continued in that position until his death in 1989. In 1995 Bryan Lingwood became the Vice President.
The backdrop to this was reductions in public expenditure, new attitudes to social problems and new expectations of the voluntary sector forcing many voluntary organisations to re- examine their work.
During this decade of social, political and financial change there was again the need for Age Concerns to change and adapt. Age Concern Stockport worked hard to develop a new focus on prevention and supporting independence for older people. The organisation also worked hard with some support to survive a turbulent period of severe financial and other difficulties in the early 1990’s.
As the organisation continued to change and develop it meant changes in premises in the first half of the decade. This included moving from second floor offices in Hillgate to Grenville Street Edgeley, used for office work and administration and then a first charity shop; also office space at Churchgate House on Churchgate, shared with a number of other charities. Russell Morley House continued as the main client access building. The well regarded Hospial Aftercare Scheme also moved premises to Stepping Hill Hospital after the closure of Stockport Infirmary in April1996.
However this period was also the beginning of a period of stability in the leadership of the organisation. Janet Mehta took over the Chair and continued in that position for over a decade. In a period of general organisational growth and success the number of services grew as did the need for space and co-ordinating across multiple sites brought a number of management challenges.
The current Chief Executive, Margaret Brade joined the organisation from the legal profession as the first Volunteer Coordinator in 1994, building up the volunteer base. She quickly moved on to take the helm in 1995 and was a driving force in building up the organisation to its current size enabling many services to provide support to thousands of local older people.
A new Constitution registered with the Charity Commission to change the governance from a Management Committee to a Board of Trustees for more effectiveness was registered with the Charity Commission in February 1998.
The 1990’s was also the beginning of what would become one of the biggest changes with the growth of technology. This has continued at an incredible pace and has also now in addition moved beyond the office into being a key service to support older people to also be part of this new world.
By 2000 Age Concern Stockport was one of over a thousand Age Concern Organisations and Groups providing a whole range of services, from lunch clubs through information and advice to holidays. After a major review of how Age Concern was working, a new way was established of helping the many local organisations to work together.
In July 2000 the Age Concern Federation was established to provide a link between Age Concerns but also to leave them as independent local organisations. Age Concern Stockport, along with many organisations wanting to keep and share the name Age Concern, came together to work in the new federation: a structure which reflected their independence and autonomy but also their interdependence. Age Concern England, as the national federation member, worked alongside local Age Concerns and provided support and leadership in areas like campaigning and policy.
In 2002 Age Concern Stockport was well established and a well respected organisation in the local community, representing and championing the rights of older people. To support continued development it vacated both Grenville St and Churchgate House and moved into the current headquarters building on Wellington Street, naming the building (following a staff vote) ‘COMMONWEAL’, meaning ‘for the good of the community’ to reflect the aims of the organisation. Bringing the staff together in this way enabled further development and efficiency in services.
However some things went and the decade also meant the closure of the two charity shops in Edgeley and Lower Hillgate, with the organisation preferring to run its charity shops through partnership arrangements with the national organisation.
Whilst much was happening locally at a national level rumours and pressure for the two national older people’s organisation to come together continued. Finally on 1st April 2009 Help the Aged and Age Concern England came together to create a new national charity ‘Age UK’ working / trading as Age Concern & Help the Aged dedicated to improving later life for everyone.
The decade finished with questions facing Age Concern Stockport of whether to remain involved with this new national organisation or whether to pursue an independent future; in any event the future would be about retaining independence in order to focus on the needs of local older people.
Early in the next decade the question of whether to become involved with the new national charity required an answer. The new Age UK brand was launched on 19th April 2010 as the name and the ‘life loop’ logo brand of the new national organisation, with the two brand logos from the merged charities set to gradually disappear. A full review of the Age Concern Federation started and an offer of brand partnership made to local Age Concern’s with an answer required by April 2011.
Around the same time there was another question being wrestled with; the legal status of the organisation. The question was whether to remain as a Registered Charity (number 516912) or form a new Incorporated Charity – a company limited by guarantee. This later question had to be decided by the members whereas the Age UK Brand Membership was to be decided by the Trustees. However time and energy was taken to consult widely - internally with staff and externally with members and other stakeholders.
The answer to both questions was announced at the 2010 AGM (delayed because of the major changes being debated) which was held in January 2011. The answer was yes on both counts. Age Concern Stockport was accepted as a brand partner of Age UK. The organisation would also become an incorporated charity which brought various operational benefits (for instance the organisation could enter into contracts in its own right as a commercial company is able to) whilst meaning that the new organisation would be subject to regulation from both the Charity Commission and Companies House, a common structure for larger organisations.
The work to bring about the changes all focused on closing (technically it was merged) the old organisation down on 31 March 2011 and the new organisation, re-branded, seamlessly springing to life on April 1, 2011. Behind the scenes much work was undertaken to transfer all the assets and the staff to the new organisation and ensure compliance with all relevant legislation.
The new charity was registered as Age Concern Stockport whilst its operating name (the one seen in all public facing information) was to be Age UK Stockport. The new incorporated charity is registered charity number 1139547 and company number 7413632 and from 1st April 2011 all assets were transferred to the new charitable company and became known as Age UK Stockport.
The old Age Concern Federation had ceased and in 2012 Age UK Stockport became a member of the new Age England Association.
Unexpectedly some changes in premises were forced when in December 2013 Russell Morley House (which housed the well-known Pop In as well as trading and Information and Advice) had to be vacated following a structural failure of nearby premises bringing the safety of the premises into question. After some temporary arrangements the public office reopened at Unit 34 Merseway shopping Centre in May 2014 to continue to deliver trading and Information and Advice.
The loss of the Pop In café took a little longer to find a replacement for and in December 2014 Age UK Stockport took a licence to redevelop a social centre and café at Level 2, the Hat Works, Wellington Mill. Despite great efforts this could not be made to be financially sustainable and so has since closed. The need for a specific town centre venue has changed and reduced over the years and fortunately there are now a number of good venues.
A completely new development came in 2014 after working with the Council owned company Individual Solutions SK for over two years to develop Day Services.
The best of both services were brought together into a new company to deliver on promised improvements in services following a comprehensive Council review. Step Out Stockport was established as a new Age UK Stockport associated company limited by guarantee on the 7th February 2014 under company number 08881836. Sharing the mission and values of the charity, it began operating on 1st April 2014, initially delivering from two new centres at Whitehill in Reddish and Ada Kay in Bredbury. In 2016 service delivery was focused into one building at Whitehill.
Following changes and problems at a national level Age UK Stockport was forced, along with many other local Age UK’s, to close down its trading activities in March 2018. People could continue to benefit from the products from a national helpline but the local face to face work was sadly lost.
SOME THINGS DONT CHANGE
Throughout the many changes we have remained the same in some key respects.
Our mission remains the same. The words have changed over the years but they are always about supporting the health, wellbeing and independence of local people in later life, and their families and friends, to live well in their communities.
The staff members have been the organisations greatest asset form the start and continue to this day to provide exceptional quality services though genuine caring and commitment to the wellbeing and best interest of local people in later life.
Volunteers have always been central to the organisation’s success over the past quarter century with around 50 currently supporting Age UK Stockport’s services. We could simply not do what we do without them and in addition as well as immense personal added value the volunteers bring the local community into the organisation.
The quality of our services is tested and benchmarked through the Age UK Brand Partnership and Age England Membership and the organisation renewed its Age UK Organisational Quality Standard (OQS) in early 2018. In addition we have continued to seek additional ways of ensuring commitment to quality is developed and well evidenced. By 2010 Investors in People was well established and renewed as required; 2012 brought the reputable ISO 9001 Quality and 2013 the highly regarded ISO 27001 Information Governance standard and all have been maintained and renewed for 2018. The organisation also became registered with the Care Quality Commission in 2017.