The Women’s Royal Voluntary Service was formed just before the Second World War to help civilians cope with wartime life – and Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen, became its patron.
It spread into many different areas over the next few decades, including homes for elderly women in search of company and a sense of community after their husbands passed away.
By 1997, the Voluntary Service concluded that these care homes would be better run independently so ownership was transferred to a newly formed charity, Greensleeves, which took its name from the green armbands worn by volunteers during the War.
Cash drive: Greensleeves has its origins in the wartime volunteer service of which Princess Elizabeth became patron
The group has grown considerably since then, with 25 homes and 1,000 residents. But it still tries to build a sense of community, delivering superior care and helping elderly men and women to enjoy their lives, even as they age.
The approach has paid off. The number of homes has increased steadily in recent years and almost 90 per cent of homes are rated good or outstanding by the Care Quality Commission.
Now Greensleeves chief executive Paul Newman is seeking to raise up to £25million through a ten-year charity retail bond, paying 5 per cent interest annually. The bonds are in £100 denominations, minimum subscription is £500 and interest will be paid twice a year, with first payments next June.
A £500 investment therefore will earn £25 interest per annum and the bonds will be repaid in 2030. They will also be listed on the Stock Exchange so investors can buy and sell them in much the same way as shares. Some investors might baulk at the idea of buying bonds in a care home business, given that the sector has been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Greensleeves has not been immune from the impact of coronavirus. Some residents passed away from the disease, homes were closed to new residents and occupancy levels fell during the spring and early summer. But staff worked night and day to make residents’ lives as comfortable as possible, while Newman and his team scoured the globe to ensure that all front-line workers had proper PPE kit from the start of the crisis.
The effects of coronavirus linger on – staff still wear protective equipment and relatives can only see their loved ones through screens – but residents and workers now receive regular tests and they are first in line for the new vaccination programme, which is expected to start within weeks.
Occupancy levels have begun to climb back, a number of homes have waiting lists and morale is considerably higher than it was. Unlike many care home groups, Greensleeves is a charity so all the money it makes is ploughed back into the business to expand and improve services for residents. Three-quarters of these residents are privately funded but, in line with Greensleeves’ charitable status, no one is ever kicked out because they can no longer afford to stay.
Newman intends to use the cash from the bonds to buy and build more homes and invest in existing sites. Demographic trends are in his favour. According to independent research, the UK will need 110,000 additional care home beds over the next decade, a rise of 23 per cent over today’s levels, as the number of people aged 85 and over soars between now and 2030.
Encouragingly, Greensleeves has delivered steady growth in revenues and profits in recent years and is predicted to continue in that vein.
Midas verdict: Greensleeves is an award-winning care home operator that has withstood the Covid-19 pandemic, remained profitable and is keen to grow. The bond issues will allow it to offer decent care to more people and the interest rate is extremely attractive in today’s market. Bonds are available through most leading stockbrokers. They are a buy.
Bond Isin code: XS2250730749 Ticker: GHT2 Contact: greensleeves.org.uk or 020 7793 1122