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Taking the time to care
Article date: 17/02/2017
Operating a charity reliant on the generosity of benefactors large and small can lead to challenges in terms of long-term development, and even survival. But when that charity is providing a much-needed service to the local community, it is important that it has a trusted partner to rely on to offer support and expert advice when those challenges reach crisis point.
WeLoveCarers is a Dudley based charity which has at its heart two very simple principles - empowering carers and changing lives. Founded in 2009 as the Insight for Carers Service, the charity exists to provide support, information and advice to the tens of thousands of unpaid carers throughout the borough of Dudley.
In 2016, the charity which operates two main projects within Dudley - Insight which supports carers of adults, and Chaos which supports families with disabled children by providing a range of specialist play services - found itself facing a particularly set of challenges which threatened its very existence.
"We receive no core funding," explains Rachael Gardener, Chief Executive Officer of WeLoveCarers. "We raise money through our premises in Brierley Hill, Insight House; where we operate a coffee lounge open to the public, and the Secret Venue - a large multi-purpose space for anything from a conference, exhibition or play sessions to wedding receptions.
"The venue had been in a state of disrepair and we had an arrangement in place that we would invest in doing up the building in lieu of paying rent. When the building was sold, the new landlord at first agreed to maintain this arrangement, but after a while decided that rent would be required. Unfortunately after investing in the premises and our equipment, we were unable to meet his demands."
The matter came to a head for WeLoveCarers in April when the charity was suddenly locked out of the premises and the new landlord refused to give them access to its equipment in the building. This included personal items of equipment belonging to the children who accessed its play schemes and tens of thousands of pounds worth of the charity's belongings.
"Being denied access to our premises and equipment had a huge impact on our operations - essentially forcing us to close down. However what really impacted on us was the children being unable to access things that were really important to them personally. That really hurt."
As the situation progressed, WeLoveCarers contacted Higgs & Sons. Highly regarded in the region for its commitment to the local community, Higgs' Property Litigation experts recognised the need to act swiftly.
"It was clear that WeLoveCarers was in an extremely serious situation," states Nyree Applegarth, Partner in Higgs & Sons' Dispute Resolution team.
"The historic agreement they had in place with the previous landlord had enabled them to operate successfully from their premises in Brierley Hill. For that agreement to be rescinded so suddenly and then for the landlord to deny them access to their equipment and any means of income generation essentially meant WeLoveCarers was being shut down."
Nyree and her team worked hard to negotiate with the landlord in order to reach a solution which enabled WeLoveCarers to gain access to its much needed equipment. Unfortunately when the charity was given access to its belongings, it was dismayed to find that some of the goods had disappeared and other goods had been damaged beyond repair.
As the landlord refused to compensate the charity, a claim had to be issued in the County Court for financial compensation. The claim was hard fought but finally in August 2016, the determination paid off as the landlord was ordered to pay a significant amount of compensation and the charity's legal costs.
During the court case WeLoveCarers had to seek alternative accommodation in order to continue to raise funds to survive. It also set up a social enterprise which helped to fund the charity.
Rachael Gardener was grateful for the lifeline that Higgs & Sons was able to provide the charity
"Nyree and her team were fantastic. The invaluable advice and expertise we received were crucial factors in securing the future of WeLoveCarers. We are extremely grateful to have found a partner to whom we could turn for support and guidance in what was an extremely challenging time.
"Thanks to Higgs & Sons not only are we able to support over 400 carers of children and 120 adult carers, but we can also provide support to many more vulnerable groups and individuals throughout our community."
To find out more about WeLoveCarers go to: http://welovecarers.org/