• Mon. Jun 17th, 2024

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Award-winning Middleton Hall becomes first UK retirement village to be employee owned

A north east retirement village that has attracted accolades across the board has become the first in the UK to be owned by its staff.

As of April 2019 Middleton Hall Retirement Village, based in in Middleton St George outside Darlington, is entirely owned by its 190 employees.

The transfer to become an Employee Ownership Trust, and join the likes of John Lewis and Waitrose, follows months of preparation since the move was first announced by the multi award-winning retirement village in September 2018 in a bid to safeguard the long-term future and high quality facilities it offers.

A project team representing all areas of the business was formed to help co-ordinate the transfer over to employee ownership and a team of ten employees attended the Employee Ownership Association conference in November to network and learn from other EO companies.

Employees have been kept closely updated on progress and, earlier this year, staff voted to appoint eight representatives from across the whole business onto a Co-owners Forum. From this group, two employee Trustees have been elected to sit on the Ownership Trust.

Aimed at preserving the ethos and values of the business and ensuring that Middleton Hall’s employees are truly respected as the company’s greatest asset and share fairly in its future success, the move has been very positively received both within the business and further afield.

Messages of support from other employee-owned businesses across the UK have been received including one from Aardman, the Oscar-winning animation studio behind Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Morph, which has also recently transferred to Employee Ownership.

Simon Fowler, Director of Communications at John Lewis congratulated Middleton Hall in its transfer to employee ownership and said: “You’ve now joined a growing group of businesses across the entire UK who are realising the business and personal benefits of sharing ownership and influence whilst at the same time contributing to the growth of this £30 billion part of the economy.”

Staff cheered their new ownership status at a special evening celebration at the Blackwell Grange Hotel in Darlington.  Themed as a night of surprises, it featured magicians, caricaturists and some cleverly disguised singing waiters.

Gail Jones, who has worked for Middleton Hall for over six years, was recently elected as one of two new Employee Trustees of the Company with Sheenagh Young, Care Manager of Middleton Oaks fulfilling the role of the other Trustee.

Gail commented “This is a really exciting time for all of us at Middleton Hall. I feel employee ownership offers great security for both staff and residents alike and truly illustrates that employees are the company’s number one asset.

“I am delighted to have been elected to the role of Trustee for Middleton Hall and am overwhelmed by the support from colleagues. I am looking forward to representing the interests of all services and I feel I will be a positive role model in promoting the benefits of employee ownership.”

Middleton Hall Retirement Village is located within 45 acres of woodland and parkland and boasts extensive facilities including a restaurant, pool, spa, gym and sports facilities all designed to offer residents the opportunity to live a rich and fulfilling retirement.

It offers a vibrant community and operates on the philosophy of ‘Living well’, enabling residents to live active and fulfilling lives by giving them choices about keeping fit, eating a balanced diet and doing activities that are sociable and stimulating.

The business has achieved a rarely-awarded outstanding rating in all categories from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and won the Skills for Care ‘Best Employer of the Year’ Accolade award in 2018 as well as achieving the prestigious Investors in People Platinum accreditation, an accolade only 0.5% of accredited businesses have achieved.

Residents are very positive about the protection of Middleton Hall’s ethos that the new employee-ownership status will offer.

When he announced the plan to transition to employee-ownership, Middleton Hall’s Managing Director, Jeremy Walford, explained that as the owner of a mature, cash-generating company he was faced with the challenge of how to best maintain the long term quality of the company after he had sold the company.

He said: “I have worked hard to transform what was a struggling care home into one of the leading retirement villages in the UK and have taken considerable personal financial risk to turn it into a successful and profitable company that is financially stable.

“My motivation over the last 23 years has been driven by the desire to build a business that makes a difference to our customers and staff rather than purely for financial reward. I now feel a responsibility for ensuing Middleton Hall continues with the vision of being the best and maintains the values that make it the special place where our residents live and staff work for the long term.”

He continued: “I have received offers to sell the business but I am aware that in selling a company you never know who you are really selling to in the long term and I have seen good companies in our sector ending up barely a shadow of the business they historically had been when run by a caring owner, after being bought out.

“In a business world where capitalism and especially social care businesses often have a bad name, an Employee Ownership Trust offers a different model of how a truly caring company can operate, so my personal decision was easy.

“It should sustain Middleton Hall for the long term, ensure continued re-investment, high staff engagement and customer focus.  That is far more important to me than the personal wealth from selling the company to a third party.”

Middleton Hall Retirement Village www.middletonhallretirementvillage.co.uk

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