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Homelands Trust Fife

We’re interviewing our Partners to take you behind the scenes and give a more in-depth look at some of the organisations we work with. Today we’re chatting with Jan Kerr, Trustee from the Homelands Trust in Fife, Scotland.

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Tell us how the Homelands Trust got started, and why you focused on accessibility.

Homelands came about as a result of a very generous legacy, left by local lady, Miss Isabel Paxton.She bequeathed her estate, including her large family home, ‘Homelands’, as well as her investment portfolio, so that ‘people with MS and other disabling and incurable conditions’ could have some respite from living daily with their condition.Sadly, the original house was demolished in 2006 but this allowed the trustees to commission a high quality, purpose-built facility in the extensive grounds.

Where did you go for accessibility advice?

We were very fortunate to have a wealth of experience of disability and accessibility issues amongst the trustees. On the Board there were 2 disabled people, the local council access officer for the built environment, an MS specialist nurse practitioner, a housing OT (who has MS), a retired teacher of children with profound and multiple disabilities (who had ME) and 3 family carers. Other trustees had skills in management, finance, business, community development and the voluntary sector.We took advice from various specialists eg on ceiling tracking hoists, and visited similar businesses eg Clober Farm and Hoe Grange, to look at their provision.We also sought the advice of Kenneth Munro, of W Munro, Glasgow, who supplied all our specialist equipment. Kenneth is extremely knowledgeable in his field. He provided us with staff training in the use of the specialist equipment.

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What does accessibility mean to your organisation, and to your guests?

Accessibility is at the very core of our business. Many of our guests have not been on holiday for a long time due to a lack of suitable facilities to meet their needs. Some of the stories we hear make it all feel very worthwhile. Our guests are very loyal, with a high proportion of repeat business. Our occupancy level for 2016 was just under 80% and for 2017 bookings had already exceeded 50% by the first week in February. Repeat business is high because guests know that our accessibility is excellent.

Have you had to compromise on quality and style when allowing for accessibility?

Not at all. We had a fairly large budget as the legacy had been wisely invested. The brief that we gave the architects was to ensure that the lodges had the ‘wow factor’, which is exactly what many guests say when they walk in the door.An interior designer from John Lewis put together the different colour themes for each lodge and all the furniture and furnishings came from John Lewis.Everything we purchased when furnishing the lodges is top quality.

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What accessibility information do you provide to customers?

Each of the 4 lodges and the Paxton Centre has an Access Guide. You can find it on our website. It is updated regularly. Much of the specialist equipment is replicated in all 4 lodges, with the exception of larger or more expensive items such as shower trolleys or mobile hoists. Our staff are always happy to discuss individual access requirements with potential guests prior to booking.

How important is disability awareness training for your staff?

Although our staff team have not had specific disability awareness training, they have all completed the VisitScotland Accessible Tourism training.

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