Age Concern is the UK's largest organisation working for and with older people

History and Origins


One of the upheavals of the Second World War was the effect it had on the lives of older people.

Recognition of this prompted the setting up of an Old Peoples Welfare Committee(OPWC) by the Council of Social Service in Gower Street, London in 1940, its Chairman being Eleanor Rathbone MP. This association with the Council in Gower Street lasted until 1971 when it moved its headquarters and adopted the title Age Concern.

Continue below . . .

The Committee soon gained recognition and in 1944 adopted the title National Old Peoples Welfare Council (NOPWC) to distinguish it from the growing number of local OPWC's that were springing up elsewhere in Britain.

Doubtless this activity at national level did not go unnoticed in the Chesterfield Borough Council, for in 1946 the authority acted in response to a report by Dr Bailey of its Public Health Department and initiated the Chesterfield OPWC, using the model constitution to bring together representatives from both statutory and voluntary agencies.

This places Chesterfield Borough Council as the first authority in the County to initiate action to bring about the establishment of a voluntary agency in this category. This preceded similar action taken by Derbyshire County Council two years later.

Staff, and in particular Murial Kirk from the Public Health Department, took on the secretarial duties. The introduction of the welfare state did not impede the work of the development of the OPWC. Funding became available initially from local government under the provision of the 1948 National Assistance Act. The Borough Council was making grants to social clubs in the town prior to the scheme which replaced it, and which is still in operation.

Early documentation indicates the OPWC's association with other agencies. One such group would have been the local newspapers distributing gifts to deserving pensioners at Christmas, Cinemas and hostelries raising money for "treats" or day outings.

With the transfer of Public Health to the National Health Service Murial Kirk still continued to act as Secretary from the NHS post to which she was transferred. Her period of service extended into her retirement. It was with the onset of ill health that she relinquished her role in 1987.

Chesterfield & District OPWC were consulted when Age Concern appointed Development Officers in 1984/85. It was with this staff increase that the County Age Concern produced its strategy of creating across the whole county District Age Concern Committees. It was intended to use the pattern of the eight local authority districts as the basis of area allocation. Four officers were appointed. It should be recorded that in the former Boroughs of Ilkeston, Glossop, and Chesterfield, Old Peoples Welfare was firmly established. In both Glossop and Ilkeston premises had been provided for the sole use of elderly people. In other Urban Districts, mainly Dronfield, Staveley, Clay Cross and Bolsover, buildings had been erected and allocated for the exclusive use by elderly people. Gerald Sawyer, one of the 4 Development officers, was allocated to develop the areas of NE Derbyshire and Chesterfield.

For the period of his appointment to the retirement of Murial Kirk the Development Officer became a member of the Chesterfield OPWC, as had been the practice prior to these appointments when the Chief Officer of Age Concern Derbyshire acted in that capacity.

Miss Kirk retired in 1987; this event coincided with the withdrawal of funding by the County Council to Age Concern Derbyshire, and the remaining balances of Chesterfield OPWC were donated to Age Concern.

The former Chair of Chesterfield OPWC was Mrs I Colchester Wymess and the Secretary was Miss M. Kirk.

Former Officers NE Derbyshire Age Concern - Chairman Councillor B Smith followed by Mr R Barrs, Secretary Mrs J Thompson.

The withdrawal of funding from the County Council to Age Concern Derbyshire struck a blow as the Development Officers, whose responsibilities were linked to working within each District of the County, were made redundant. In the area of N E Derbyshire and Chesterfield, former staff who had been made redundant, together with volunteers, decided in 1987 to share the upper floor of the Age Concern Charity Shop in Clay Cross. It was from this location that the climb back to normality began. The Care Line Service was launched with a small grant obtained from a Parish Council, together with monies raised from organising a once weekly "Car Boot Sale" on land owned by the same Parish Council. The Clay Cross shop premises were on a temporary basis and when the owners gave notice to quit the charity found small one room accommodation in the Chesterfield YMCA in Holywell Street, to "hold a position" within the locality.

Age Concern was fortunate to have had continuous representation since its creation on the North Derbyshire Community Council; in 1992 their representative was Chairman of the Council. During the next two years he headed a multi-disciplinary group whose remit was to examine the needs and concerns of older people. The enquiry was to include older people in both residential care and the community. The North Derbyshire Health Authority commissioned and provided funding for the research. Amongst the findings of the report was the importance to older people of the fear of being alone. It went on to identify that further research was needed to understand this and its relationship to older people giving up their independence. It also identified many cases where individual older people felt isolated when, without the help of relatives, they had to decide which care situation best suited their needs. The overriding outcome was the decision by the Health Authority to fund a part-time officer located in and managed by Age Concern Chesterfield to introduce an Advocacy Service. From this small beginning we have been able to achieve a degree of independence.

In 1998/9 we became an accredited member of the recently formed Age Concern Federation. This consolidated nationally all those groups who met the quality standards of the Federation and enabled us to participate in regional and national meetings of the Age Concern movement.

We remained based in the YMCA building until 2002 when we re-located to the basement of the newly opened Age Concern Derby and Derbyshire shop in Stephenson Place.

By this time we had secured sufficient funding from Derbyshire County Council and Chesterfield (later Derbyshire County) PCT to allow us to employ a part-time Care Line Co-ordinator and in 2003, with an increasing workload, we recruited an office administrator, taking our total part-time staff to three.

The basement in Stephenson Place wasn't ideal for handling the increasing flow of callers needing help and advice and so, in 2010, we moved again, to New Square. This gave us more office space, at ground level, and a more central position in Chesterfield.

In 2009, Age Concern England and Help the Aged merged to form a new charity, Age UK, and the relationship between the 350+ Age Concerns and the new charity changed. Many larger Age Concerns applied to become Brand Partners of Age UK, whilst smaller ones, including Chesterfield, were encouraged to become Friends of Age UK whilst retaining their name and independence.

In Derbyshire, Age UK Derby & Derbyshire and Age Concern Chesterfield & District have a friendship that has lasted for over 40 years. We know that we need to work together to ensure that people in later life have access to the opportunities and activities that they want and need locally.

Chesterfield and District Age Concern became a Charitable Company limited by Guarantee during 2011 and this has allowed us to remain as


Back to top