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Pearey House – Activities and Outreach

I just love seeing people enjoy themselves.


Getting out and about

The first year I said, “Who’s up for a holiday, let’s sort this out.” There wasn’t many people at the time using the service so I arranged to go to Llandudno. There was an RNIB hotel there at the time, all set up for blind and visually impaired people. I sorted absolutely everything out for that holiday. Four days, three nights, all the trips, all the transport, all the accommodation and they absolutely loved it. From then on, I have looked for holiday companies who could help us. We’ve been all over, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Wales, Scotland. It’s good fun but hard work. Everyone thinks we are on holiday, no we’re not, we’re actually working 24/7. I just love seeing people enjoy themselves.


Photo of a group outing to Tynemouth LongsandsTransport is a massive issue for people. Some people can’t afford it and some people are not comfortable getting into a taxi on their own. The minibus is one of the big things, so that makes it hard for logistics of picking people up when you are going out on a day trip because that can take an hour and a half before you have even got to where you need to go. What we have done pre-covid is just short trips to garden centres, Boundary Mill, Blyth to get fish and chips, things like that. This year we could focus on trips further away like the Lavender Gardens in Yorkshire are fantastic and that’s such a lovely day, but picking people up, getting them there for a certain time, having a talk, having an afternoon tea, getting them back, getting them home, it’s not as simple as people think. But hopefully this year we will do a big trip where we can get a coach.


Exterior view of the new Iris CentreWe’ve purchased the property on Queen Alexander Road which is going to be called Iris. That is going to be a resource community hub, not just for blind and visually impaired people but the whole community. We want to raise awareness of Pearey House, so it’s going to be like a shop front. What we do, how we help people but also working with other organisations in partnership. For example, Optelec, Guide Dogs, RNIB, anybody who can work in partnership, helping people with benefits, that’s a big thing. We want to make people aware of what it’s like living with a vision impairment. We’re going to have refreshments and gifts for people to buy which are tactile. I don’t think we shout enough about how good we are. People keep coming, so that’s a good sign if people use the service and keep coming and we’ve got a waiting list. So, who knows for the future.

There’s a lot of younger people out there with visual impairments, they might want to volunteer, they might want to just have a sounding board to talk to somebody to say how they’re feeling. So yes, it is literally listening to people, seeing what people need and want. There’s a lot of people at the age of 16-17 who are leaving the school system and not having anything else to go to. There’s a place in Edinburgh that takes people, from 18 to 21 but there is a big gap, how you fill that I’m not sure. Some people’s perceptions of Pearey House are old people in a day care centre environment and I think a lot of people get a shock when they come in and see that it’s not like that.


We are extremely lucky here that from day one they have had astute people and they have been very wise with their investments. They have had groups of people who have always invested. They had a vision and that’s carried on. We are lucky, we own the building, we own the flats and that’s a massive thing because that’s where charities are falling down, they are renting.

There was a trust called Viney Trust that a gentleman set up in 1926 and we just received money every year. Five years ago, the people running this trust fund, said that it wasn’t viable for them, so they wanted to close it down. Big discussions came about and then I looked at all the paperwork and I just thought, oh gosh! Then I started having discussions with the trustees, “This is a lot of money, we need to be thinking about what we can actually do with it.” I said, “I’ve got this vision, come on.”

This property came up round the corner, it was really run down. Three bedroomed flat above was refurbished and rented out straight away, we got a really good price for that and then we started on the work downstairs. I can’t believe it’s actually going to be happening now that I think about all these years that we have thought about it, I am quite proud about that.

Photo of the Iris Centre after completion of the refurbishment

The completed work

150 years

Photo of the Lord Mayor at the summer fair.

The summer Garden Fete

I’ve ordered, for the first time, a massive inflatable slide for the garden party because I said traditionally children haven’t come, because the only children that come are the service users’ grandchildren or because it is predominantly older people and that’s another thing with the opening of Iris, that we can advertise that wider, so we might get families coming in. We’ve got steel bands, barbecues. 150 years, it’s absolutely amazing, especially in this climate. I do believe we are very lucky, but you can’t just rest on your laurels. You still need to keep looking what we can do.

The people are a massive part of Pearey House and they always have been. I am the fifth manager in all this time, so that tells you something that once people are here, they don’t tend to go.

Photo of the flats at Pearey House

The Flats at Pearey House

The people who live here get a lot of benefits from living here. If they need a light bulb changing or a letter reading or they’ve lost something, they literally pop over or ring up and we go and sort it out for them. If they were living independently on their own, they might have to wait a week for a family member to be there to do that. They come over on a Friday and have a chat altogether in the lounge and have a cuppa. I take them out shopping. They have got the gardens; we do barbecues in the summer for them. They’ve got a really nice little community. The flats are lovely, and the people are lovely who are in them. Sometimes I am a social worker, sometimes I am a dog walker, sometimes I am a cook. It’s a lovely environment for people to live in.

Twelve flats, but we’ve got a couple in one of the flats who met here and got married. And that’s a rolling programme of refurbishments. If somebody moves out we are refurbishing them, putting new kitchens in. We did all the bathrooms into wet rooms, new boilers.


Helen was interviewed as part of the Pearey House 150th Anniversary Project.

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