Age UK Milton Keynes, the Chamber’s Charity of the Year 2020, has been a fixture of the local community for over four decades, but the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown presented a serious challenge that had to be tackled head on. InBusiness discusses the future of the charity.

Age UK Milton Keynes is a local independent charity that has worked to improve the lives of older people and their families for over 40 years. From small, volunteer-run beginnings in Newport Pagnell in 1978, the

charity has grown to an organisation that provides 15 services to approximately 10,000 older people and their families each year. Throughout the years, the charity has always maintained one mission; to help older people make more of later life, and as the Chamber’s Charity of the Year 2020, the team is excited for the opportunities ahead. MK’s population is growing and ageing - older people

With the recent launch of a new furniture store in Kiln Farm, Paula Ayres,

development manager for the charity, said: “Our new look furniture store in Kiln Farm is developing into a retail unit that will rival any store selling new furniture, with goods at a vastly reduced cost. A proportion of the stock is often made up of new items which have been donated or sourced from local companies, or national companies with their head offices in Milton Keynes.” The ethos of the charity is that support meets people at the

aged 65 and over account for 13.8% of the population, and Milton Keynes is one of the local authority areas that has seen the largest increase in over 65s since the last census. Although Age UK Milton Keynes are affiliated to and share the same values as Age UK National, the charity is totally independent, with their own charity number, board of trustees and the responsibility for raising their own funds to develop services that meet local needs; all the money raised stays in Milton Keynes. The team run nine shops, including three furniture stores which generate

vital unrestricted income, and offer informal support for people to access information and advice or call in on a regular basis for a friendly chat.



point of their needs, and this accounts for a vast range of offerings. From practical or emotional support, help in the home or community-based activities, services including befriending, lunch clubs, technology help, hospital aftercare, information and advice, and independent living services, improving the well-being and quality of life for all older people in Milton Keynes is central to everything,

helping them to lead fulfilling and enjoyable lives. The services and products offered to the charity’s users are incredibly varied, keeping the workforce of 196 staff and 363 volunteers constantly busy, and are a combination of free and paid-

for services. Alongside the more well-known options of support, Age UK MK is constantly innovating. The charity offers an independent living service, advocacy rights and representation, a Trusted Traders list, a memory club, and a social prescribing service amongst many more. However, emerging from lockdown is bringing a stark worry. Paula

explained: “Due to the age and vulnerability of our clients it is important that we continue to support them, as we are often their only support. The loss of revenue due to the lockdown has meant we are, at the moment, working hard on surviving as a charity.” The energy and drive of the team has been clear to see during the

Covid-19 lockdown, when their expertise and commitment saw the launch of an emergency response service. Responding to the urgent needs of residents imposed during lockdown, the services provided included dinner deliveries, essential shopping, essential food parcels and prescription collection, IT assistance and telephone befriending. It has proved so popular that the team are assessing the potential viability of being able to continue delivering some of the newer services that have recently proved so popular. Despite the bleakness of the past few months, the determination of the

team prevails. Paula added: “We are always looking for new ideas for services, or improvements to existing services, to ensure that older residents can live a fulfilled and happy life.” Loneliness, social isolation and the effect this can have on an individual’s

The new furniture store in Kiln Farm

health and well-being has been well documented, with many younger people suffering these very same issues in recent months as a result of the pandemic. These issues are prominent and have significant impact on the wellbeing

of people throughout the community. As the world emerges from lockdown, perhaps bringing with it a new empathy of the issues older people can face, the charity are looking forward to working with fellow Chamber members to promote a renewed individual and corporate philanthropy. Paula continued: “There are always fun opportunities to help us raise

funds in the traditional ways; cake bakes, dress down days, and personal challenges such as MK Marathon, treks and sky dives.” But the charity knows from long-earned experience that businesses who

publicly engage in support earn a higher standing in the community. Skill- sharing, forming active partnerships with fellow members, and finding new ways to work together is something Age UK MK is keen to develop during their tenure as Charity of the Year, and as a Chamber we look forward to being part of that success.

To discuss how your business can support the work of Age UK MK, contact Paula Ayers directly:

AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2020 inbusiness 15

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