Age Concern And Help The Aged In Merger Talks

Help the Aged and Age Concern, the UK’s two biggest old-people’s charities, are discussing a merger. This is the third time in 10 years that the two organisations have attempted to join together and they are expected to make an announcement on a their move to create a single charity in November.

The charities have admitted that organisational pride has prevented them from merging in the past, despite the fact that the groups deliver many similar services. The latest meetings are said to have been more successful than previous discussions.

A merged organisation would provide services for older people, such as day care and household repair services, and campaign for older people’s rights. Politicians and funders are said to have been putting pressure on the two organisations to unite as it is felt that older people would be better represented if the charities were not competing against each other.

Age Concern Scotland is independent of its English sister organisation and has so far not been involved in the talks. It is expected that the London-based charities will consider its position in their discussions.

A London-based voluntary sector publication revealed news of the merger this week, after getting access to a confidential Age Concern England document. It warns: “The power of the status quo, allied with organisational pride, has been a stumbling block before, where there was concern that a merger may result in two successful organisations being replaced by one less successful one.”

But it continued: “The interests of older people may not be best served by two organisations that are often in collaboration but sometimes in competition with each other.  It is likely that competition will increase in future in a variety of areas, for example, in service delivery or international work.

“There is reputational risk in being seen to have backed off again from a merger. Nonetheless, there will inevitably be continued pressure from patrons, parliamentarians and funders to merge, and associated distraction from getting on with the work. The issue is unlikely to go away.”

Help the Aged and Age Concern England both confirmed this week that they are discussing a union. A joint statement said: “Both charities are absolutely committed to ensuring that this process does not detract in any way from the main job in hand – namely working for, and on behalf of, older people.

“Help the Aged and Age Concern England continue to place that interest at the centre of all that they do however this is done in the future. Whatever the outcome of these latest discussions, both charities will continue to work in cooperation together in the future.”

Age Concern England’s income last year was £81.9m while Help the Aged’s took in £73.9m.