WRIF support makes new children's care facility possible
As part of its ‘COVID-19 Recovery Plan,’ Warwickshire County Council has created a new £140m fund - the Warwickshire Recovery Investment Fund (WRIF) - to support businesses in their recovery and growth, post-pandemic.
One company set to benefit is Forge Care, a local specialist children’s care provider, whose flagship facility ‘The Forge’, will receive a £1m loan from the ‘Business Investment Growth’ (BIG) branch of the wider WRIF.
To learn more about how Forge Care and its residents will benefit from this loan, Cllr Martin Watson, WCC Portfolio Holder for Economy & Place, met two of the firm’s directors and co-founders, Dave Hughes and Jean Miller, to gain a detailed insight into the company, how it secured the funding and what it intends to do with this financial boost.
MW: What is the background to Forge Care and why did you develop the facility in Warwickshire?
JM: Forge Care was founded in 2020 with a mission statement of improving the lives of looked after children and their families in locations all over the UK. We chose Warwickshire for our first site - ‘The Forge’ - as we’re a family locally and wanted our first venture to be one which puts something back into the local community.
MW: What sets The Forge apart from other children’s care homes?
JM: “We provide what we call a ‘Therapeutic Community.’ This is a first-of-its-kind environment that has been intricately designed to meet the complex needs children can have if they are in need of healing from trauma. In addition, our members can make the most of ‘Creative-Expressive Therapies’ and we have space to give support to up to 24 children.
MW: Have there been any issues with the development of the complex?
DH: “We’ve stuck rigidly to our original designs which I’m delighted to say means we will be able to provide the full range of facilities and amenities we need to bring the right level of care for our residents.
“This applies to both the internal and external elements of the site. For instance, with the interior we want to replicate the layout and style of a traditional family home - which is essential for ensuring we have an inviting space that caters to different members’ needs.
“At the same time, the exteriors have large play areas as well as sensory and nature spaces which are to encourage the residents to get involved with growing plants and making the most of the natural world.”
MW: How has the WRIF assisted in all of this?
JM: “Simply put, none of this would be possible without the support of the WRIF or the Warwickshire County Council. This loan will now mean we can get to work improving the lives of looked after children, not just in Warwickshire but further afield.”
MW: How did you find the WRIF application process?
JM: “From start to finish the WRIF application - and indeed the approval process - has been seamless. We had concerns we would face disruption or delays, but this wasn’t the case. The Business Investment Growth team, provided advice, support and guidance each step of the way. Our loan was agreed and processed quickly by Warwickshire County Council and their support has been an invaluable asset throughout this project.”
MW: Would you recommend pursuing this funding to other firms?
JM: “Absolutely. While other businesses or groups will have different needs and requirements, if they feel they may benefit from the WRIF, they should at least make an enquiry with the council about it to see their options. The team are very interactive and able provide sound advice and discuss finance options.”
Speaking about the wider benefits this new funding stream has the potential to unlock, Councillor Watson added: “On top of the fantastic news that the WRIF will be utilised by Forge Care to ultimately help many vulnerable children in our area, is the fact that additional businesses supported by these loans, will bring both further employment and more income to the local economy.
“With this investment, over the next five years we could see upwards of 3,000 new jobs being created and the safeguarding of thousands of existing roles. It truly is an exciting time and I would encourage businesses looking to bounce back or growth following the pandemic to consider this opportunity.”
* For further information on the WRIF and what support it can offer, local businesses can visit the Warwickshire County Council website.