The Journalists’ Charity has been forced to shut down its nursing home for journalists and their dependants after running it at a substantial loss for a number of years.
Pickering House in Dorking, Surrey, is currently losing £250,000 a year, but as recently as three years ago its annual losses were double that figure. The 20-bed home opened in 2007 at a cost of £4m.
Some 14 residents have been given three months’ notice to vacate the care home. The charity said it is working with social services to find them alternative accommodation.
Press Gazette understands that no other care home provider was willing to buy the home because of its relatively small size and the high cost of expanding it.
Jill Palmer, chairman of the charity’s trustees, said: “It has been a very difficult decision to close Pickering House but a combination of falling demand and increasing costs meant the home had become an unsustainable drain on the charity’s finances.
“Our primary duty is ensure that we have the financial capability to support as wide a range of eligible people in the short, medium and long term. We will of course help ensure that current residents at Pickering House are relocated to comparable and suitable accommodation.”
If it had continued spending on the home at the current rate, the charity was forecast to run out of capital in ten years.
There was also a problem attracting sufficient new residents to the home, which can only house former journalists and their dependents. Some residents pay full-price fees themselves, whilst others are subsidised by the charity.
The charity continues to provide sheltered housing at Ribblesdale, Dorking, and respite care support across the UK.
Palmer said that while the perception of the charity was that it mainly helped older journalists who had fallen on hard times, it was in fact seeing an increasing number of young people facing difficulties with their mental and physical health approaching it for help.
She said: “In recent years, it has become very clear that the support demanded from those we help has changed in nature and continues to do so.”
The 154-year-old charity’s main work is distributing grant funding to journalists nationwide who fall on hard times and to that end it is urging journalists of all ages to support it.
The Be Part Of It Now campaign invites journalists to support the charity by paying as little as £3 a month and highlights its work in providing financial assistance to those facing hardship.
Said Palmer: “The future of the charity depends on the support of rank and file journalists. That is why we are appealing for them to join us for less than the cost of a coffee.”