Cyrenians to reach out for national expansion

Newcastle-based charity The Cyrenians is poised to grow nationally as it finalises arrangements for taking over the services of a larger charity

Stephen Bell OBE, chief executive of North East charity, The Cyrenians
Stephen Bell OBE, chief executive of North East charity, The Cyrenians

Newcastle-based charity The Cyrenians is on the brink of national growth. Chief executive Stephen Bell has confirmed the firm is finalising arrangements for taking over the services of a larger charity that operates throughout the country.

The national charity, which will be named on completion of the deal, operates within similar sectors and is expected to aid The Cyrenians’ growth mission to boost turnover this year by 20%, from £8m to £10m.

The move, which should be completed by the end of the year, would also entail hiring 70 additional staff, bringing the total number of employees to 336 by March 1.

“It’s a big move. It’s really exciting,” Bell said.

“Within our growth plan, we’ve had the objective of becoming a national charity and, while we’ll always be Newcastle-based, we want to deliver services elsewhere that change people’s lives.

“It’s an interesting time in the sector, because there’s less public money out there and, in simple economic terms, you couldn’t give a £1m contract to a charity with a £200,000 turnover because it wouldn’t have the infrastructure to cope with it.

“That’s one reason we’re also investing in our back office support functions such as HR, finance, communications and marketing.”

The charity will likewise be moving its headquarters from Plummer Street in Newcastle to a larger site on the Team Valley in Gateshead, by the end of November.

The expansion is all the more striking given The Cyrenians started life as a volunteer-run soup kitchen and night shelter back in 1970.

In the past four years, it has more than doubled its turnover and has offices throughout the North East.

The charity, which works with around 4,000 people per year, offers services in five key areas; accommodation and outreach; offending projects; addictions and recovery; employability; and women’s and family services.

Around 28% of its staff members have been homeless themselves, and it also benefits from the services of over 27,000 volunteers.

For a charity, it takes its business plan seriously, running three social enterprises, a food-sharing scheme, a property services company and two charity shops.

Its long-term aim is to generate 20% of its income through its own business activities.

Bell added: “Essentially, what we have is a business model in the charitable sector. We’ve been working hard on that business model and working hard on community engagement.

“My role is to give strategic direction and ensure the business is run properly.

“We need to create opportunities so our frontline workers can do life-changing work; we don’t interfere with that.”

In 2008, The Cyrenians was named the Charity Times National Charity of the Year and in 2009 it received The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service.


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