Local Age Concerns to break away from Age UK

Birmingham and Liverpool are first to reject new trading agreement and seek 'alternative structure'

Birmingham and Liverpool Age Concerns have become the first to say in public that they are seeking to form an alternative structure to Age UK.

The chief executives of the two organisations – which are among the largest Age Concerns – are jointly writing to the leaders of the other 330 local organisations about their plans and inviting them to join the discussions.

Age UK, which was formed last year by the merger of Age Concern and Help the Aged, want local organisations to become ‘brand partners’ and sign new trading alliance agreements.

The move has been unpopular with some Age Concerns, which are independent charities. Some believe the agreements would lead to a loss of autonomy and poorer services for older people.

Shirley Goode of Age Concern Birmingham and Dil Daly of Age Concern Liverpool say in the letter that they are "actively exploring alternative options to the trading alliance agreement" that would "ensure the future viability of our charities".

The two charities have compiled a list of frequently asked questions about the initiative, which has been named Project Ruby, to send to interested parties.

The list says: "We have done this because we believe that the new trading alliance agreement in its current iteration does not afford us control, ownership or independence and we want to be able to offer something which provides a more equitable relationship between the provider, the customer and ourselves."

The charities add that they are seeking an "alternative trading structure" and have found insurance providers "who see a lot of potential in the strength of our local brand and our ability to trade independently from Age UK.

"We have a management company lined up that can effectively replace Age Concern Enterprises and, because there is no split of commission to the national charity, we will be able to attract much higher commissions for the products we will sell.

"This will be a much leaner and uncomplicated body that will not be run purely from London and will have a lighter touch when it comes to rules and regulations."

Birmingham and Liverpool Age Concerns employ 56 and 126 staff respectively. They say five local Age Concerns are formally involved in the project and several others have expressed an interest.

Age Concern Slough & Berkshire East has formally told Age UK it does not intend to sign the trading and branding agreements and is believed to be interested in being part of the alternative venture.

John Plummer recommends

Age UK

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