The UK’s only charity dedicated to helping horticulturists turns 175 in 2014 and is launching a year-long awareness and fundraising campaign at a party at Kensington Roof Gardens on 16th January. Perennial is looking for support from all corners of the industry as well as from the garden-loving public, to safeguard its services for those struggling with debt, depression, long-term illness or disability. So if you’ve made a New Year’s resolution, and would like an incentive to keep it, why not aim to raise at least £175 for Perennial this year? This could buy bunk beds for children currently sleeping on the floor, or pay for an occupational therapist to assess a client’s needs.
Established in 1839 by a group of wealthy landowners who wished to provide for their long-serving head gardeners in retirement, The Gardeners’ Benevolent Institution began life as a pension fund. It soon attracted the attention of Victorian high society, who willingly supported the fund with annual donations and appearances at its annual fundraising dinner. Charles Dickens famously said at the 9th annual event:
“I hope the day will come when every gardener in England will be a member of the charity.”
Perennial, as the same Institution is now known, still helps gardeners across the UK in retirement and has extended its reach to all professionals working in and retired from horticulture. But Dickins’ dream is yet to be a reality – less than 20% of the 500,000 people working in horticulture in the UK know of the work of Perennial and even less are actively involved.
Richard Capewell, Chief Executive of Perennial, said:
“The work of Perennial – which is often described by those we help simply as a ‘lifeline’ – is needed now more than it ever was. The economic pressures on low-paid horticulturists too often result in debilitating stress. A high rate of injury, and subsequent long-term leave of absences, means that many workers in our industry struggle to make ends meet. We’d like to be able to help even more people this year and are looking for industry support to make our 175th birthday a really special one.”
The charity no longer provides regular pensions, but does still provide a range of financial services to people experiencing hardship, and in the current economic climate is needed more than it ever was. In 2012 Perennial helped over 1,000 people, over 85% of whom were still of working age and a quarter of people needed help with debt. Perennial helps with debt advice, financial and general support, and often simply as a listening friend who can help make sense of a situation.
Tanya, a full time gardener on a large estate, describes Perennial’s support as ‘life-saving’:
“My husband left me on the day our baby was born and I struggled to cope, both financially and emotionally. I needed to return to work quickly but worried about the cost of childcare and how to balance the needs of my baby with those of my employer. Perennial was amazing, a real life-saver. I was assigned a caseworker who looked at everything and Perennial awarded mew a grant to pay for childcare one day a week. My caseworker helped me approach my employer for flexible working arrangements and I’m now happily working part time and have been able to keep the accommodation that is provided on site. I just couldn’t have got through that time without Perennial’s help.”