Breaking the mould, meeting the need

A social enterprise supporting 30,000 homes across the community


Fold Housing Association launched its latest five-Year Corporate Plan earlier this year.  For over 35 years the association has been delivering housing, care and support through the hard work and innovation of its voluntary board and dedicated workforce.  Fold now supports over 30,000 people throughout Ireland through a diverse menu of services aimed at maximising and sustaining independence.

Fold has long been associated with the provision of sheltered housing across Northern Ireland.  However as Chief Executive John McLean explained: “Fold is a name synonymous with sheltered housing or as our tenants remind me – apartments for older people.  We are grateful for the innovation and foresight of Fold’s founding members who recognised the value of good quality housing with dedicated support staff on site.  This model has worked well and we have now 90 Folds located in the heart of communities throughout Northern Ireland.”   John is keen to explain:  “We hear calls for a greater commitment to mixed community housing as social housing is deemed to have perpetuated divisions within communities.  This is not the case.  Fold’s sheltered schemes have been providing mixed community housing since they were first introduced in the 1980s.”   


Fold snap shot

  • £34m Turnover
  • 5200 homes
  • £47m of private finance
  • 800 staff
  • 26,000 Telecare customers
  • 3 tenant board members
  • Member of Accord Procurement Group

Over the last ten years, Fold’s tenant profile has evolved to include general needs and family homes.  John remarked:  “We estimate that Fold’s housing stock will be equally split between general needs and sheltered housing by 2013, when we expect to have 5,800 homes under management.”  Fold also provides specialist supported housing for people with complex needs.  Its award-winning housing-with-care schemes provide 24 hour care and housing support to frail and older people, people with dementia and those with learning disabilities.

John outlined Fold’s vision and future direction.  “We recognise the need to offer choice.  We aim to provide choice for families and other need groups in terms of housing, care and support.  So whether your home is your existing tenancy or you wish to move to one of our modern and high efficiency dwellings, we want to be able to support you.  We can offer a range of accommodation for a range of needs.  Alternatively through our outreach services into the community, we can help you maintain your independence and provide added peace of mind.”

Fold’s Staying Put service can guide applicants through the Housing Executive’s disability facility grant system.  This service helps over 750 households per annum to complete vital adaptations to assist disabled children and older people.   

The most exciting development in recent times has been the growth and expansion in Fold’s Telecare and Telehealth assistive technology services.  Fold supports 26,000 homes throughout Ireland through its TSA-accredited 24 hour service.  Customers can avail of personal security and bespoke care packages, all providing a valued peace of mind.  Last year, Fold in partnership with S3 and Tunstall secured a six-year £14 million contract to provide vital signs monitoring for up to 1,250 people in their homes with diabetes, COPD and other chronic diseases. 


Fold believes that assistive technology represents a valuable conduit for care and support into the community in the future.  Moving forward, future services will need to be flexible, customer-orientated and cost-effective.  To illustrate this point,  John described Fold’s Brain Bus service, recently launched following a successful funding application to Atlantic Philanthropies.  With the £1.25 million investment, Fold will be able to deploy up to two specialist buses, equipped with the latest US technology offering cognitive and physical therapies.  He explained that many people with dementia and living in rural and remote areas are unable to access care and support.  It was therefore Fold’s idea to bring that support to the community.  Fold’s Brain Bus will also be used for dementia diagnosis as part of a trial scheme in partnership with the Northern Health and Social Care Trust.  Two years ago, Fold introduced a ‘hub and spoke’ housing management outreach service in Newtownabbey.  Staff are now able to support older people in the community, backed up by Fold’s telecare service.  This cost-effective delivery model has proved to be a great success.


In the face of tough economic times, Fold is seeking to maximise efficiencies through ‘root and branch’ internal reviews and collaborative working with all its business partners.  Along with its Accord partners, namely Alpha, Gosford, Habinteg and Triangle housing associations, it has jointly tendered for design consultant, construction, response maintenance and corporate works, goods and services.  In 2011-2012, savings equivalent to 10 per cent were achieved in the very competitive construction market place.  John stated that many associations are concerned at the possible consequences of such low tendering and confirmed that additional supervisory and inspection staff had been engaged.  Accord is the first procurement group to successfully tender a property services contract which could rise to over £30 million in value.

Looking to the future, John believes that associations will have a critical role to play in developing sustainable communities but they must continue to adapt and change.  Fold operates as a successful social enterprise.  We are a value-driven organisation contributing to the community through high quality, customer focussed services.  We are also a significant employer with over 800 staff.  Fold maintains a strong commercial focus, always seeking to maximise its rate of return to enable them to re-invest in new and innovative services.  Its ethos has always been to encourage new ideas which maximise independence and support our core housing functions.  Just as budgets will become more constrained and customer expectations evolve and rise, so the Board and staff of Fold will continue to seek to be the provider of choice in housing, care and support.

FOLD-LOGOFor further information please contact Fold Group, 3-7 Redburn Square, Holywood, BT19 9 HZ
Tel: 028 9042 8314
Fax: 028 9042 8167

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