The Pilkington Family Trust was established by Dr. William Pilkington and his son Richard. They were among trustees appointed to a charity to provide education to the “children of poor parents in the township of St. Helens.” Along with William Pilkington (Dr. William’s older son) they also became involved in the independent Church’s charitable work organising schools, relief organisations, nursing and medical services.
Pilkington Brothers were becoming increasingly concerned with the welfare of its employees when, shortly after the schools were formed, the company introduced a works doctor, a works dining room and a home for orphaned boys who would eventually be employed as apprentices
In 1922, Richard Austin Pilkington donated shares and, together with a contribution from the Company, the Employees Benefit Trust Fund was founded. The purpose of this fund, initially, was to pay pensions and benefits before a Workmen’s Pension Scheme was formed in 1925.
A short time later, independently of the Company, two more charitable funds were formedd and then were amalgamated with the Employees Benefit Trust Fund (EBTF) to form the Pilkington Family Trust Funds.
Today, the C & AP Fund finances the Community Programme helping Pilkington pensioners and their spouses, widows and widowers. Originally, the Trusts were managed through Pilkington Plc’s welfare department but Pilkington Retirement Services Ltd was set up as a totally independent company in 1992 to administer the funds world-wide on behalf of the Pilkington family.
“We live off our investments,” says Diane Swift, Manager of the PTF, which has a £83 million value. “We spend our money on ex-Pilkington employees in the main.
“Eligibility for use of our services comes with ten years’ service to Pilkington, and the size of the company can be gauged by the fact that we have 9,500 retirees – though there were 14,000 at one time, when Pilkington was a much bigger company.”
The ‘customers’ Diane’s team have are, in the main, elderly people, who enjoy a range of services for which the Trust’s small fleet of three minibuses are of core importance. The Trust’s beautiful Ruskin Lodge is a focal point, providing respite care services which allow the carers for former Pilkington employees, for example, to go on holiday knowing their loved ones are in good hands.
“A great many of our people have carers at home,” says Diane. “They get a break by leaving their parents or relatives with us, and we ensure that our people have a lovely experience.”
Even the Trust is not immune from taking in other guests who perhaps do not qualify, but at as little as half the cost of privately-owned care homes. But its care tendrils also include a meals-on-wheels service, day centre services and, crucially, days out to local shopping centres, events and tourism attractions.
“We took them to the Lowry Centre today, and we’re off to Bury Market tomorrow,” says Jim Molesdale, a former psychiatric nurse who now drives for the Trust. The drivers for the Trust are all paid, including one who – at just over 30 years old – had to pass his D1 entitlement to drive on the Trust’s Section 19 licensing. Additionally, all four drivers – three regulars and one bank driver – have regular MiDAS training and refreshers on using the restraint systems.
All the drivers have regular schedules, and manage additional day trips themselves: “There are a lot of regular, fixed journeys,” says Jim. “The day starts at 8.30am with day centre collections and finishes at 5pm. But our day trips ultimately come down to us.”
The vehicles themselves have all been supplied by Minibus Options of Whaley Bridge in a relationship which goes back some years, the latest being a Peugeot Boxer with either 11 seats or nine plus two wheelchairs. Tracking and restraints are by Unwin. They are generally sold with low mileage to second users, such as the local Age Concern when they reach the end of their service life with the Trust.
The Trust has standardised on Ratcliff Palfinger lifts to maximise driver and assistant skills and the vehicles are the responsibility of each main driver. They are serviced at main dealerships locally.
“We’ve always bought our vehicles from Minibus Options,” said Diane. “We can go to the Whaley Bridge factory and use the showroom to choose the seats and accessories we want, see similar vehicles in build and specify what we need.
“For us, good legroom is important and we need some luggage space. Seats are much better now than they once were, and our choice of seat fabrics is important , as we must be able to clean it thoroughly,” said Diane, who can probably recall the shiny vinyl seat coverings once used. “These days, some of the cleanable fabrics have a very modern appearance.”
The new Peugeot Boxer is highly adaptable, with 11 seats or nine with two wheelchairs aboard. As many as half the guests arriving at Ruskin Lodge are wheelchair users, so ensuring the pick-up routine for the week is very important.
When the photographer arrived, Jim was delivering new guests for a respite break to Ruskin Lodge. It was immediately apparent that the minibus is perfect for the job. And from the smiles on the faces of the Pilkington Trust’s guests, it’s plain that the same is true of Ruskin Lodge.