1967 Humble beginnings
The organisation started its journey with a small supported housing scheme in Medway, providing bedsit type accommodation
1992 Growing up
Following multiple mergers, the organisation’s portfolio had grown, in 1992 it opened its first care home, Rogers House
2000 Leap of faith
In 2000, the organisation purchased nine former Kent County Council care homes. As a result of this acquisition, it grew significantly from an annual turnover of approximately £650,000 to £9.2M and the number of employees from 60 to 420.
2001 Falling short
In 2001 the Care Standards Act 2000 was implemented requiring all new build care homes and nursing homes to provide single rooms with a minimum of 12sq meters usable floor-space plus en-suite bathroom facilities. Most of the rooms in the homes that transferred from KCC did not satisfy this requirement, which in the short term was sustainable because other providers had similar accommodation. This statutory change, however, signalled the beginning of higher expectations as purchasers would increasingly demand this standard of accommodation.
2007 Great expectations
In 2007, the organisation made significant strategic changes to realign its properties and activities to satisfy modern expectations. An Asset Management Survey confirmed that approximately £5m would be needed to repair and and sustain the properties during the next five years. Mindful that we were not going to have these funds, plus purchasers of care home expectations were changing, we agreed to redevelop the portfolio to provide future proof accommodation.
Raising the capital funding to undertake this work, however, was immensely challenging because we had a poor financial history, no previous experience of major development, plus the UK had entered the Credit Crunch. We remained steadfast and confounded our critics by raising the funds needed from Triodos, a Dutch bank that would only lend to organisations with very high ethical standards. In addition to this funding, we also managed to secure £5M in grant from the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA) for an £8M Extra care housing scheme to replace one of the former KCC care homes – Valley Lodge in Gravesend – that was losing approximately £110,000 a year.
2011 A new dawn
Watling Court, our first extra care housing scheme, opened its doors in 2011. The scheme offers independent living with support for over 55s, available via the local authority on an affordable rent basis. It has consistently achieved high occupancy levels.
2013 Overcoming obstacles
One of our homes that the required urgent major repairs and modernisation was Woodgate in Tonbridge. To sustain the income during the construction, our intention was to develop a scheme on the site alongside the existing building; however, it was located in Green Belt making any expansion on the site unattainable.
In 2013, we were approached by a company who had plans to purchase the adjoining site to develop a care home. We did not have the funds for this scheme; however, it was essential we established a partnership as it would have accelerated Woodgate into closure. Mindful of this, we agreed a build and lease back partnership.
2014 Against the clock
Mindful of the rising expectations in the self-funding market, namely purchasers requiring a minimum of 12sq meters usable floor-space, plus en-suite bathroom facilities, the pace of redeveloping the portfolio needed to increase.
In 2014, we successfully made bids to the HCA to invest a further £45M to replace four of the former KCC homes – St Martins, Woodgate, Greensted and The Dynes.
2016 One door shuts, another opens
Our flagship care home, Barnes Lodge opened for business. Residents from the former Woodgate home moved across, meaning work could start on the extra care housing scheme next door.
2017 A big year
In 2017, the organisation celebrated its 50th anniversary. 2017 also saw us leave the Abbeyfield movement and move forward as an independent organisation. Growing exponentially throughout our 50 years of operation, we decided we were in a strong enough position to manage our local operations and take forward our own strategic plans for growth and development in the local region.
2018 New kids on the block
Two new extra care housing schemes, in Tonbridge and Larkfield, open their doors. Both schemes showed signs of success from the outset, with the rented units being oversubscribed. At Tonbridge, apartments were also available to buy through Older Person’s Shared Ownership (OPSO), our maiden voyage with selling homes.
2019 Breaking new ground
Work starts on site at two further extra care housing schemes in Wateringbury and Kemsing. Both schemes will offer apartments to rent via the local authority, to buy through OPSO and to buy on the open market. Staying true to our original ethos and values, 82% of all of our homes built since 2018 are classed as affordable housing.