The History of WCL
We Change Lives was established in 1991 as Warrington Community Living and has a long history of supporting people, so we thought it would be interesting to dive into our history and see how far we've come.
1991 – The WCL charity is founded
Warrington Community Living first came into being in 1991 as a response to the closure of the New Church Hospital for people with learning disabilities in Culcheth. Through the provision of a range of residential homes across the Borough, the aim of our new not-for-profit organisation was to support people to live away from the large institution, that for many had been their home for years. This included Radcliffe Meadows which was a twelve-bed residential nursing home, converted from the former Padgate Ward, located just outside the hospital walls.
At the same time, Heathside, our first residential home for older people in Penketh was handed into Warrington Community Living’s control. As well as being a new service, we also used this building as our original administrative base.
2003 – The “Supporting People” programme is launched
As part of this to give more independence, many of the smaller homes for people with learning disabilities were handed over as properties to local housing associations, so that the residents could become tenants in their own right. The support in these homes continued to be provided by WCL under commission from Warrington Borough Council.
2004 – New Gateway building opens
This year saw the opening of the Gateway building in Central Warrington as a hub for local third sector organisations and we moved our offices into this new facility.
2006 - Heathside Mews is built
We erected a new residential home alongside Heathside in Penketh, and named it Heathside Mews. It was designed quite deliberately as a relatively small, yet airy and bright, home. It was specifically built with a focus on the needs of older people who required additional support as a result of dementia and/or significant physically frailty.
2012 – the “Bespoke” group was formed
We brought a representative group of people who used our services together to meet on a regular basis. They called themselves ‘Bespoke’, and in collaboration with the Chief Executive and one of the Trustees, they supported the rewriting of our Purpose, Values and Promise. They also helped to pick a new colour scheme and logo, which they called the ‘Together Symbol’.
Also in 2012, the contract for supporting people with learning disabilities in their own homes was tendered and in a very competitive exercise, and much of this block tender work was awarded to two new organisations to Warrington. Whilst a difficult loss, this gave WCL the opportunity to reconsider how it provided services and to focus on the growth of personalised budgets and truly individual services based around person centred planning and working, which is now our biggest growth area in what we call the Community Network.
In addition, our learning and understanding of the wider needs of older people from Heathside and the Mews during this period, meant that 2013 saw us extend the Community Network into supporting older people and people with dementia in their own homes. This meant even when people did ultimately require residential care we could offer a continuity of support and approach, often with their own small team still supporting them.
2014 – Warrington Community Living merges with Warrington Community Care
After a year of discussion and planning – in April 2014 we merged with Warrington Community Care, incorporating its services into our structure. As a local charity with its own twenty-five-year history of supporting people with enduring mental health needs (who themselves had previously merged with Warrington MIND) this meant that we could offer a fuller range of services to people requiring social care and support.
Now – The largest not-for-profit care provider in Warrington
We now employ specialist staff, including learning disability and mental health nurses, and have expertise in the support of many forms of learning and physical disability, dementia and autism and long term mental health conditions and recovery approaches.
We currently support nearly 500 people in the Warrington area with the help of 330 full and part-time staff.