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Our Story

Welcare was founded in 1894 as the Diocesan Association for Friendless Girls. Society has moved on in many ways but there is still a need for the vital early intervention and preventative services we provide to address problems.

We believe that what our predecessors began, we must take forward for there can be no doubt about the need… We pray that we may be as responsive, imaginative and tenacious as those who have brought us thus far.

Winifred Stone OBE, Chair of Welcare (1994)

For our 125th Anniversary year, we commissioned a booklet showcasing Welcare’s work through the years up until present day. Click the image below to read the booklet in full screen.

1894

In 1894 the Bishop of Rochester, Randall Davidson, and his wife Edith launched the Diocesan Association for the Care of Friendless Girls, which would eventually evolve into Welcare.

Welcare serves the whole of the Diocese of Southwark and the London Borough of Bromley, parts of which are in the Diocese of Rochester. We also provide services in the Hampton Deanery which is within the Diocese of London.

The Diocese of Southwark encompasses urban South London, which includes a huge variety of ethnicities, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, with parishes stretching into East Surrey.  It is one of the most multicultural and diverse dioceses in England.  For more than 1,000 years the area covered by the present Diocese belonged to the vast Diocese of Winchester. 

1894
1877 – 1894

In 1877 it was added to the Diocese of Rochester and it was in 1894 that Randall and Edith Davidson launched the Diocesan Association for the Care of Friendless Girls, although the outreach work with unmarried mothers at a local level had started before that.

1877 – 1894
1905

In 1905, the Diocese of Southwark was created to include the whole of the county of London south of the Thames and the Parliamentary divisions of East and Mid Surrey.

1905
1914

In 1914 the organisation became the Southwark Diocesan Association for Prevention and Rescue Work to avoid confusion with the Girls’ Friendly Society and to bring the organisation into line with other diocesan societies doing similar work. A major reorganisation of the local associations took place in 1965 to bring them in line with the new London Boroughs.

1914
1970

In 1970 the name Southwark Diocesan Council for Wel-Care was adopted, later shortened to Welcare although our full charity name is Southwark Diocesan Welcare

1970
2006 – Today

The nature of the work of Welcare has changed considerably over the years.

By 2006, twelve independent local Welcare associations had merged to form a larger charity capable of tendering for contracts to deliver local services for families and children, focusing on areas of work that voluntary organisations could deliver more effectively than statutory services.  It is Southwark Diocesan Welcare which continues the work in South London and East Surrey today.

2006 – Today

Throughout the decades our role has progressed and developed to ensure we are reflecting the needs of the communities where we work. As the needs of troubled children and families in London have transformed, so too has the way we respond to those needs. We have moved away from mother and baby homes to focus on preventative work and life skills development, doing everything we can to keep families together. 

While we have every reason to be very proud of the many achievements, initiatives pioneered and sheer hard work and determination of our predecessors, we are a charity that is looking to the future. 

Our services have broadened to include the whole family and the focus of our direct work with children now includes a greater emphasis on building emotional health and well-being.  This is especially important for young people as they make the key transition into secondary education and adolescence.

The charity which has emerged from the global Covid-19 pandemic is an organisation focussing on core interventions that are proven to be successful in making a long-lasting difference including parenting programmes, domestic abuse recovery and the Caring Dads programme, and developing partnerships with schools – working through them with children and parents in need. The work of Welcare will continue to evolve reflecting changes in society, but what underpins our work is our mission to improve the lives of children and families damaged by social isolation, domestic abuse, financial hardship and other disadvantages.

As we imagine life for future generations, we are proud of our work which gives children secure and confident childhoods and builds long-term resilience, for when the children of today become the parents of tomorrow.

A short history of Welcare since 1894 cannot do justice to the work and tenacity of thousands of supporters.  However, we include one personal account below to illustrate the work to secure the work of Welcare in East Surrey.

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The Gloria Price Memorial Plaque at 24 Warwick Rd (written by Bobby Johnson, Welcare supporter):

ABOUT THE GIFT

Gloria Evelyn Price, known as Laura to her friends, died in February 2019 and, completely unknown and unexpectedly, remembered my husband Peter and myself in her will. She was a Redhill resident and at one time had a Gift Shop at Merstham but had no close local interests or family. We thought it appropriate that a part of the legacy should go to Charity and, given our previous connections to Welcare in Redhill, this was the obvious choice particularly as I had done much to enable Welcare to purchase and adapt the Warwick Road premises in 1994/5.

I had only two caveats to this gift – one, that it should go to an identifiable project and the other that a plaque should be put up to commemorate both Laura’s name and her gift.

Our Involvement with Welcare

A historical note based on our memories and seen from our point of view

Welcare, and its forerunners, celebrated its Centenary in 1994. It was then made up of 12 individual and semi-autonomous units based on the Deanery structures of the Diocese. For the Centenary each local Welcare was encouraged to set up a Centenary project.

Our then parish Church of St Paul’s with St Agatha’s Woldingham supported East Surrey Churches Welcare, as it was known, and I was the parish representative on the local Management Committee attending meetings in Redhill. Encouraged by Peter, who was also becoming involved with Welcare at Trinity House, and by Denise Mumford, who was the Anna Khan of her day, East Surrey’s Centenary Project was to find a new home for the Redhill Centre. At an early Committee meeting the costs of this task were becoming clearer and Denise appointed me, with little or no warning, as Fundraiser!

Some years earlier the premises that had been the office in central Redhill was compulsorily purchased and the operation was moved to a totally unsuitable location – over a butcher’s shop in Salfords! This was quite impossible for potential users to easily visit and certainly not with young children and buggies, for example!

The rather rundown, and fire damaged, former house in Warwick Road was offered to Welcare but the price, including the budget for renovation and adaption, was a hefty £130,000 – but with God’s help and a lot of support the Committee set about raising this sum. Clearly, the regular round of Coffee Mornings and Jumble Sales were not going to raise this amount, so we had to stage a number of dedicated events and involve the local business community. Fortunately, through Welcare Head Office, which was then at Trinity House, leading Accountants, Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC), whose HQ was nearby at London Bridge, had formed a close relationship with Welcare through holding Christmas Services at Southwark Cathedral. One PWC Partner, Richard Cornwall, was particularly involved and he too was ‘local’ to Redhill. Through him PWC ‘matched’ a number of the sums raised by our events, some of which were ‘Business Breakfasts’ held in PWC’s large Redhill office.

To make our appeal more attractive to those attending these breakfasts, and with Peter’s help, we were able to call on the likes of Floella Benjamin – now Lady Benjamin – of Play School TV fame, along with the well-known after-dinner speaker Rev Canon Roger Royle, who, at the time, also had a popular weekly Sunday Half Hour on BBC radio. All of them, plus Bishop Wilfred, became part of our fundraising team.

Personal contacts helped as well. The Mayor of Reigate and Banstead in 1994 – 1995 was Councillor Diana Bowes and she had become my friend when we were fellow parents at a school in Sutton. Asked to help the cause she made a very considerable impact when she found that The Council had not awarded Welcare the compensation that they were due when compulsorily purchased and moved to Salfords. This she arranged to be paid and a very useful £20,000 arrived. The steady growth of the funds encouraged others and a very significant Anonymous Donation was also received. The wonderful team of Volunteers who regularly helped at Redhill also chipped in with their own Parish efforts.

In Woldingham we organised a ‘big ticket’, fancy dress, 50th anniversary VE DAY Ball and Supper. Billed as ‘Swing into Spring’ with a Big Band and Andrews Sisters vocalists, it was a huge hit, and the takings were greatly boosted by generous raffle prizes that I had extracted from Redhill businesses by literally ‘knocking on doors’ over a number of days, by persuading Directors & Managers of the benefits of supporting a local charity!

Friendly local Building Contractors, Mansell’s, also made significant donations in kind for the extensive works and refurbishment that were needed and finally we got there with Cllr. Bowes opening the new Centre on 11th May 1995.

As my involvement at Redhill declined Peter’s became greater. In early 2003, with changes in Social Service provision occurring nationally, it was clear that Welcare’s fragmented structure had to change. A new central governance Charity Limited Company was formed in 2005 with founder Trustee / Directors to establish it. Peter was one of the three initially appointed to this role and the task commenced to weld together the 12 existing operations into one identifiable corporate whole with a common logo.

All did not run smoothly in this as some very dedicated local operations were loath to give up their control and their assets, including property, to the new central authority. In the end all save Kingston came into the fold, including Bromley who were the last to come across. With Peter’s background as a Chartered Engineer, with a lot of building maintenance experience, it was not surprising that he took on the oversight of the property portfolio.

This role brought him back to Warwick Road again when it was decided to gain Sure Start recognition to those Centres that could sustain this type of activity. Some Welcare properties were rented, others had more secure tenure and Warwick Road certainly was one of the best sites available for investment. At Warwick Rd Peter commissioned Wilson Stevenson Associates to design and manage the construction of the major extension that the building now benefits from. Bob Wilson, the principal Building Surveyor in the practice, became a firm friend of Welcare both for Redhill and also, at Diocesan level, for other Church related work. The new extension was opened in 2007 and Peter retired from the Welcare Board as a Director Trustee in 2010.