Clerk to the Trustees – Eric Williams

70 year old Eric Williams lives in Ludlow Shropshire. He is married and has three children and six grandchildren.

He worked in local government for 42 years, spending 34 years with the former South Shropshire District Council where he headed up the Information Technology department, before retiring in 2009. He has been a parish clerk for 43 years, and is currently clerk to Craven Arms Town Council and three other parish councils. He has also been a clerk to four almshouse charities for a combined total of  37 Years!

Eris has always enjoyed being involved with the local community and since retirement has also been chair of Westfields Special School in Leominster and treasurer to a charitable organisation called Empathy for Special Children.

In 1983 he was asked to take on the role as clerk of the trustees to Sir Job Charlton Hospital Charity. On accepting the position of clerk to the trustees he had no experience about almshouse charities so quickly educated himself by contacting The Almshouse Association for help and advice.  After reading the charities charter and reading the previous minutes, as well as understanding the financial records and working with the chairman of the charity, he soon familiarised himself of the responsibilities of a clerk and the almshouse charity itself.

One of the first changes Eric suggested to the trustees was that he personally collected and banked the weekly contributions from residents, as opposed to paying an agency to do this. Two benefits materialised from this approach; it saved the trust money and it resulted in Eric really getting to know the residents through his weekly visits. This proved to be one of the most satisfying and enjoyable roles of his work.

Eric is proud to be clerk of the trustees to four almshouse charities:

  • Sir Job Charlton Hospital Charity
  • Hosyer-Foxe Charity
  • Elizabeth Massey Almshouses
  • Louisa Powell Almshouses
Eric Williams with two residents at the Hoyser Almshouses ( left – Jim Morgan, centre Eric Williams , right – Reg Davies their oldest resident 92 years of age)

Almshouse charities can have different beneficiary groups, which are derived from the wishes of the benefactor and stated in the ‘Objects’ of the charity in the Governing Document (Scheme).  Regarding the charities that Eric works for, all support the elderly.

As clerk to the trustees, Eric is responsible for the administration, financial management and the management and implementation of all improvements and repairs to the dwellings.

During his regular visits to see the residents, he takes an interest in their welfare and loves to have a chat with them and catch up on all their news. This is the part of his role that he really enjoys and from which he has derived a great deal of pleasure.

He has also been fortunate to have worked with dedicated chairpersons and trustees; some of whom have been involved in the charities for the same length of time as Eric has and have now become life-long friends. Mutual values and a passion for almshouses have provided enduring relationships.

Due to Eric’s involvement in local government, he has been engaged with many areas of the local community, enabling him to gain an understanding of housing, planning, finance, welfare benefits, grants and working with other stakeholders such as social services, Citizens Advice Bureau, The Almshouse Association, housing associations and various other central and local government services, all of which have been a benefit in his work as a clerk to the trustees.

His daily/weekly/monthly work varies from visiting and resolving issues raised by residents, repair and maintenance activities, to health and safety issues, letting of vacant almshouses, administration of the charities and discussions with the chairpersons and scheduled meetings with the trustees. Eric comments,

“My wife Ann says that to the residents “I am open all hours” if she wants to get anything done, she just adds it to my almshouse list and includes herself as a resident!”

With the Hosyers-Foxe Charity, help is provided with Independent living and for many years there was a residential warden at the Hosyers Almshouses although the role does not cover health provision for residents. The last resident warden was the late Mrs Marion Morgan who also looked after the front garden which brought pleasure to all the residents and passers-by and for which she regularly won an annual award from’ Ludlow In Bloom’ for the floral displays. In Marion’s memory the residents now look after the garden and have continued the success in obtaining an annual award.

Hosyers-Foxe almshouses now have a facilities manager appointed who has experience of Health and Safety, providing independent housing support and working with other support services/stakeholders. Eric mentions that the three other charities also utilise the skills of the facilities manager in a similar role, enabling Eric to step back from the daily routines and concentrate on the more strategic/policy issues. 

Eric has been fortunate enough to have built a team of reliable contractors to deal with gardening, cleaning, maintenance and repairs of the buildings as they occur and has established good maintenance contracts as part of his role for items such as boilers, gas and electrical appliances, lift, fire alarms etc. Residents and colleagues alike know Eric as

the man who always knows someone who can mend it!’

What motivates Eric the most is working for the welfare and benefit of residents, some of whom have been at the almshouses for a long-time. He also appreciates the close relationships he has with trustees, colleagues, the contractors and finally the historic buildings themselves, situated in such a beautiful town.

It has become more of a hobby rather than a job!” he says joyfully. “Some of the key benefits that our almshouses offer are the continued opportunity for residents to live independently but also have a community around them if needed. There is a real ‘community spirit’ here and everyone looks out for one another. This is special. Almshouses also provide that independent living for a relatively low weekly financial contribution. This enables our residents to live in an environment that is supportive and helps their general wellbeing.”

The two main challenges for the trustees of the four charities that Eric is involved with are:

  • Attracting new trustees – this is partly being overcome with some trustees sitting on each board of the four charities.
  • Ensuring that the properties are well maintained and that there are sufficient long-term funds available for the trustees to work with.

Eric says of The Almshouse Association,

“The Association has always been there in the background, providing solid advice. They have visited on occasion too, to support us when in need. The guidance manuals for support and care for residents and Standards of Almshouse Management are my valued reference documents and I also enjoy reading the almshouse magazine, the Gazette, which is really informative and provides details of other almshouse charities. It’s good to feel part of something bigger.”