The trustees of Age Concern Swindon are reluctantly taking steps to close the organisation.
This action follows concerted efforts during the last nine months to secure the future of the charity which has been providing services in Swindon for 57 years.
For several years Age Concern Swindon has carefully been using reserves to meet the cost of running services where they have not been fully funded by the Swindon Borough Council or other funders. The charity has also been raising funds through donations, events and trading to try to meet the gap between income and expenditure. That has meant that most activities have been maintained and services provided which thousands of people rely on.
It had been proposed that Age Concern Wiltshire might maintain services to older people in and around the borough but this will not now happen.
The action taken by Age Concern Swindon results primarily from the consequences of the organisation's share of the deficit on the Final Salary section of the Age Concern Retirement Benefits Scheme, managed nationally on behalf of the scheme trustees by Age Concern England. Age Concern Swindon and some of its employees have been contributing to the scheme, at the required rates, for over thirty years. Like many Final Salary schemes, however, recent actuarial valuations show a substantial deficit with which the pension fund trustees have to deal.
Age Concern Swindon's share of the deficit is greater than the organisation has the capacity to meet – even over a period of ten or twenty years and the full payments towards the pension scheme deficit would immediately wipe out all available funds.
Following an invitation by Age Concern Swindon to review the possibility of taking on some or all of the Swindon services, the board of Age Concern Wiltshire conducted a very careful and detailed review supported by Age Concern England. The trustees of Age Concern Wiltshire have now stated that: "On the basis of the due diligence and the feasibility study carried out by an independent consultant, Age Concern Wiltshire has decided, at this time, not to take on any of the services currently provided by Age Concern Swindon.
"Age Concern Wiltshire has taken particular account of the uncertainty of future funding for services in Swindon and the need to focus our (Age Concern Wiltshire) resources on the consolidation of our recently restructured services."
Age Concern Swindon chairman, Derek Benfield said, "Our trustees have reluctantly reached this conclusion following more than nine months deliberation. After nearly 60 years of 'old people's welfare' and 40 years as an independent organisation providing vital services to older people locally, we had hoped a transfer to other providers would be possible to safeguard the future for at least some of our services. We think there may still be some which could be offered – albeit not through Age Concern Swindon or Age Concern Wiltshire.
"We are now in discussion with our staff and volunteers, with Swindon Borough Council and the primary care trust, with our other major supporters and stakeholders and with other service providers."
Pictured, Jo Osorio, director of Age Concern Swindon