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Pearey House – The Challenges of Covid and Cost of Living

We are very lucky that we have got good support.



Covid was bizarre now when you look back.  It completely changed, it’s like every organisation, it made you sit down and think why are we doing that, why have we done that for the last 10 years when we could be doing this?  I think it was a bit of a shake-up at the time.  We used to take the minibus out and we used to go through all of North Tyneside on one day, staff, petrol, people on the bus for how long?  So now, Tuesday we do Whitley Bay, Wednesday we do Wallsend, North Shields, Thursday we do Killingworth, Wideopen.   We are utilizing the minibus, the petrol, the staffing, so that was one of the things that we thought.  Also, the times that we opened.  It was a long time for people to come all day, so we said let’s just shorten the day and make it more enjoyable for people.

We worked seven days a week.  Sorry, I am going to get upset, but it was hard.  We had a lot of people to look after. We even took a Christmas mobile shop out, when you look back you think what did we do that for?  But everybody was buying things.  We had the people in the flats as well. We queued for hours shopping.  Shopping and then going back for more shopping because other people needed shopping, that was weird.  But we got through it.  It was just a strange time.

I put staff on furlough, it was just a good job we worked well together.  It was strange times.  The flats were extremely lucky they’ve got the garden.  We did social distanced barbecues and singalongs.  We did ring arounds; everybody was rung up every week, seeing how they were, seeing if they needed anything.  We started delivering hot food to people that’s when we bought a little van to do the deliveries and then we started doing frozen meals as well so that they could have something to eat on a weekend when we weren’t there, so we were out delivering those, so that was the logistics of doing that.

We are very unique. There’s nowhere like this in the whole of the country.  There’s different societies and organisations, but they might have a Knit and natter group there or a computer group once a month.   There’s nowhere actually that brings people in from their homes to socialise and do what we do.

Cost of living crisis

We got the windows done, we got a new boiler system, we got LED lighting.  We thought we’ve done everything we can and then this happens and then you think, well we can’t do anything else apart from sit in the dark and sit in the cold, which we can’t do because people come in you know.  The staff do after they’ve gone, we’ve all got our hoodies on.  Our energy before we started getting the government assistance was £1700 a month from £700.

So obviously you start looking at income and outgoings again and seeing what’s working and what’s not working.  Do we charge for the service?  Because we don’t charge for the service.  I did a piece of work 5 or 6 years ago and at the time day centres were charging £25 a day they are now charging £40 a day and people come here for free.  They put voluntary contributions into the bus tin that covers fuel, they get their lunch, pud and a cuppa for £8.

They do their own little lottery bingos, bonus ball things.  That’s for their social fund, it’s completely separate to the charity, it’s their fund.  So, last Christmas we went to the Dome, they had their three-course dinner, their entertainment, taxis there and back and they paid £15 though their social fund.

We are very, very lucky that we have got good support from people who use the service.  The people who can afford it do give and that’s really appreciated and of course we do fundraisers. We do the Christmas fair, summer garden parties, we had a 70s-night last year, race nights, we do things to try and keep it fun as well as raising money.

I think, if we get the community involved and for them to realise what we actually do, then I think a lot more people would be on board and that’s what the future vision needs to look like to keep the books balanced.  So, lots to go forward with.


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

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