Save First Step: Hornchurch disability charity planning to launch a nursery to avoid closure
PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 March 2019 | UPDATED: 07:21 15 March 2019
First Step plans to launch a mainstream nursery in the hopes that the business will fund its services supporting youngsters with disabilities.
Mark Halls, chief executive of the Hornchurch charity, told families and supporters that it had to consider new sources of income in order to maintain its services and avoid closure in 2020.
First Step plans to launch a nursery that would run at its premises in Tangmere Crescent.
At a course on financial sustainability and reimagining your organisation, Mark came up with the idea to create a social enterprise.
Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, March 13, he said: “We would establish a full daycare mainstream nursery at this end of the building.
“It would be for 67 children aged from three months to five, and would run 51 weeks a year from 8am to 6.30pm with extendable hours from 7.30am to 7pm.
“The crucial point is that this would be a mainstream nursery.”
Mark explained that charity faces two challenges - how it can continue to fund First Step alongside raising funds for the nursery, and whether it can negotiate the allowances of its lease with Havering Council.
In addition to the 200,000 the charity is raising to continue its services, it will be soon launching another appeal to fund the establishment of the nursery.
“If we can raise £250,000 for [the nursery] it will actually yield £1.5million funding for First Step over the next 10 years,” he said.
“It would give us the base line funding that we’ve lost from the local authority.
“We’re not expecting that [the council] can return that money to us, what we’re trying to do, is to take matters into our own hands.
“We’re trying to create a plan that is constructive, business focused and can provide long term funding for First Step.”
In order to achieve this goal, First Step is looking for local businesses and people who can help with the work needed to transform the building,
“We’re asking do you know any builders personally who would be prepared to give up a small amount of time to be part of a team and work at a fraction of the cost?
“If we can actually engage a crowdfunding appeal nationally then we could do it.”
Councillor Robert Benham, cabinet member for education, said: “We are aware of the concerns raised by First Step and the residents they support.
“I recently visited First Step and met with the director and trustees of the charity, along with members of staff, children and parents to learn more about the issues. Talks are also taking place between the council and the charity to explore possible solutions.
“We recognise the valuable contribution First Step makes to the local community and we will do all we can within the resources available to continue to support the charity.”