The two biggest social-welfare organisations in Manchester are to merge to create a new multi-million-pound body.
As exclusively reported at TheJC.com on Tuesday, Manchester Jewish Federation ("the Fed") and Heathlands Village have decided to combine their resources and facilities. Employees of both organisations have been informed of the merger.
The move could presage an even bigger shake-up of the sector as its instigators have said that once the Fed and Heathlands merger has been completed, the door would be open for other care organisations to join them.
The decision to go ahead with the scheme was taken at a meeting last Friday of professional and lay leaders from both groups.
Mark Addlestone, chairman-elect of the Fed, said: "The meeting was very positive. The only question we asked ourselves was: what is best for Manchester Jewish community care? The wonderful thing was there were no egos in the room. It was all driven by a vision that this could be the way forward, the future of social care.
"People will want to know what's going to happen to their mum or dad. The answer is that everything will continue in exactly the same way. We want services to be better and, far from cutting resources, we want to enhance and expand the services we provide."
The full details and implications of the merger have yet to be worked out, but Mr Addlestone said a conscious decision was taken to go public with the news because "we wanted it to be out there.
"We wanted people to understand that we are doing this to provide better community care and better solutions across the board for people in the future. There is a huge crossover between the two organisations and we want to build an umbrella organisation to allow easy movement between them."
Mr Addlestone, 49, who heads the UK-wide Beaverbrooks chain of jewellery shops, added: "I would really like other care organisations to be open to discussions about a merger. It's not about creating a mega-organisation, but delivering a community-care strategy in the most efficient way possible, for anyone who needs care. The more people we can get on board, the stronger the organisation will be."
Mr Addlestone - who is expected to chair the newly merged organisation - said the Fed recognised that the Charedi community was the fastest-growing sector of the community.
"We have a very good relationship and work closely with the Charedi community. We will be looking for solutions for the entire community and they would be very much a part of that. The biggest challenge as far as the Charedi community is concerned is in residential care. We would certainly consider starting a Charedi care home, working closely with the community to ensure it met their requirements."
Mr Addlestone will work with Karen Phillips, the current chief executive of the Fed, and Janet Lewis, her Heathlands counterpart, on the details of the merged organisation. One of their first calls will be Jewish Care in London. "We are very interested in the Jewish Care model and we would like what we create here to be along similar lines," noted Mr Addlestone.
Rodney Berkeley, president of Heathlands Village, said: "This is the start of a transformation of social services for the Jewish community in Manchester. We have to be proactive... and we have to look 10 or 20 years ahead to provide what the community will need."
Mr Berkeley rejected the suggestion that the economic climate was behind the merger: "The credit crunch is only a dip, and in however many months it will go up again. It is not affecting our trading income, but we are worried that charitable donations may be reduced."
Ms Phillips said: "The face of social welfare is changing. The government wants to keep people in their own homes, managing their own care through individual budgets.
"This merger is about the changing needs of the Jewish community in Manchester. People are going into care homes much later in life, so we need to support them more. And many people we see don't have family locally because their children have moved to London. But it's not only about the elderly; this is also about how we support children and families. We're planning for a whole continuum of care; a centralised welfare provision and a strategy."
Heathlands: An ageing client base
Heathlands Village is widely recognised as one of Britain's top Jewish care homes.
Set in five acres at the heart of North Manchester's Jewish community in Prestwich, it offers residential, nursing and respite care to more than 160 people. A 52-bed nursing department includes designated areas for dementia patients.
The current premises opened in 1972, but provision for Manchester's aged Jewry began in 1898.
At the end of November last year, Heathlands had 166 residents, of whom one-third were aged over 90. They were cared for by 249 staff, 141 of whom were full-time employees.
Fully kosher meals are provided for residents. Activities on offer include concerts, computer lessons and reminiscence sessions. A cinema room opened last year.
Heathlands' annual report for 2007 showed a trading deficit of more than £520,000. Operating income increased five per cent from £4.5m in 2006 to £4.7m. The charity is largely dependent on fundraising and runs events such as golf and bridge days. A dinner in January raised more than £500,000.
The Fed: Facing rising demand
The Fed (Manchester Jewish Federation) is one of the North-West's oldest charities and has been supporting the Jewish community since 1867.
The charity covers all aspects of Jewish life, offering a vast array of services.
Among them are social-worker teams assisting children with disabilities and special needs, and adult-care teams providing nursing, meals on wheels and support groups.
Last year, more than 400 volunteers spent almost 14,000 hours helping others.
The charity received 1,700 calls for help and advice in 2007, and its Philip J Davies Centre - opened 12 years ago - is a focal point for those seeking support.
In 2007, almost £800,000 was raised through community fundraising. But expenditure of more than £1.4m meant a net loss of £165,000.
In its last annual review, its president Lord Steinberg called for a rise in donations to match a predicted 20 per cent increase in demand by 2015.