Sale of Deafblind UK premises will help reach more people with dual sensory loss
Deafblind UK made the decision to put the premises on the market a year ago, prior to the pandemic, in order to improve its financial situation. There was a worry about the loss of the conference centre, which makes £100,000 per year for the charity, but chief executive Stephen Conway told Peterborough Matters that it was decided that more could be done with money from a sale - especially when Covid-19 hit and the charity lost its conference centre income, community fundraising events were cancelled and the shop was closed due to lockdown.
"We want to reach more people across the UK," he said. "There are approximately 400,000 people in the UK with some form of dual sensory loss, but Deafblind UK only has 4,000 members; we're only reaching 1% of people. Not everybody needs charitable support, of course, but it's likely there are people we aren't reaching who would benefit from our services."
This sale means that funds can be used to invest in new and existing services to support more people who are deaf and blind. There are plans for three projects that will benefit from a portion of this money.
The first is to open other facilities like Rainbow Court, in Paston. This supported living environment is managed by Deafblind UK, with self-contained flats allowing those with combined sight and hearing loss to live independently within the wider community. There are communal spaces for tenants to socialise, training kitchens, IT equipment, gardens and allotments for all to enjoy.
Stephen hopes that with this realised capital, other facilities like this can be opened across the country, with other UK local authorities collaborating on the project.
There are also plans to expand digital inclusion and ensure access to technology, and starting up more social groups once Covid-19 restrictions allow.
Stephen added: "We've been lucky and had support from trusts and organisations, donating to help us through these times, but we've lost £250,000 since March. We'd put the building on sale prior to the pandemic, but it's worked out well. If we'd had the benefit of looking into the future we'd have definitely had to do it to survive Covid."
The charity's former headquarters has been sold to RWM Investments, who are set to convert the existing single storey building, comprising 19,265 sq ft, into a medical centre.
Edward Gee, associate director in the business space team at Savills Peterborough, which handled the sale, commented: "The sale of the building on Cygnet Park provided an opportunity to purchase a premium property in one of Peterborough’s top office parks, which was suitable for a range of alternative uses. We are very pleased to have secured this sale on behalf of the charity."