Bright future for Thrift Farm - new provider named
Following a full public consultation Buckinghamshire County Council is pleased to name a joint venture between Kids Play and Mead Open Farm as the new provider for services at Thrift Farm.
The new provider was confirmed by the Council's Cabinet last week [9 September]. To comply with legal requirements the company, known as Provider 'A', could not be named until after the 16 September.
The new company formed by Kids Play and Mead Open Farm will use their combined expertise and experience to create a sustainable future for Thrift Farm.
Lin Hazel, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "We were determined to explore every possible avenue to keep Thrift Farm open. The consultation, while unsettling for service users and their families, was instrumental in keeping the issue high profile and finding a new provider.
"We would like to pay tribute to all who campaigned to keep the farm open and worked with us to find a new provider. There has been a thorough debate on all the business plans put forward to run the service - and we are confident that Kids Play and Mead Open Farm are the best option to secure a bright future for Thrift Farm".
Kids Play Childcare, based in Milton Keynes, have over 18 years experience providing childcare in OFSTED registered settings throughout the South East. Through their nurseries, pre-schools, after school clubs or activity day camps they provide care for 2,500 children across the Milton Keynes region.
Family business Mead Open Farm in Leighton Buzzard operate a well established children's farm. Welcoming some 230,000 visitors each year, they are home to over 350 farm animals, run a programme of daily activities and an active year round event schedule.
Paul Sharp, Managing Director of Kids Play, said: "Families have confidence in Kids Play Childcare, often starting with us as babies and continuing with us through to Primary School at our After School Clubs or Activity Day Camps. Taking over Thrift Farm means we can develop and extend our range of services."
This sentiment was mirrored by Matt Heast, Owner of Mead Open Farm “Thrift Farm has its own special charm and its important the changes we make retain this. We look forward to bringing our animal handling expertise and visitor attraction experience to Thrift for the benefit of everyone".
Their 'winning' business case includes keeping the farm open to the public and providing an adult day service - alongside a café, retail shop and farm family attraction.
Paul Sharp continues: “We are very excited about this opportunity and look forward to using our expertise in education and care, combined with Mead Open Farm's farming, animal activities and attraction knowledge. We want to maintain the uniqueness of the farm and all future developments will be done for the benefit of everyone - including better opportunities for adult clients with learning difficulties."
The new company and the Council are keen to reassure current service users and their families that there will be no sudden changes to their circumstances, with Lin Hazell saying: "We are keen to work closely with service users, their families and staff to ensure a smooth transition over to Kids Play and Mead Open Farm."
A meeting to discuss next steps with them has been planned for September 2019.
Service users and clients were in a celebratory mood when told that Thrift Farm would continue under the Kids Play Childcare and Mead Open Farm Joint Venture. Most said they felt happy but relieved with the news and were now planning a party to celebrate.
Glen, who works with the farm animals as well as having a paid week-end job at the farm, said: "Thanks to everyone who campaigned. I'm glad the farm is staying open. I get to keep my job!"
Helen, who has been attending the farm for 14 years and works in the cafe, said: "I am happy the Farm won't close. We can stop worrying now. I love my job working in the cafe. I like cooking, making cheese scones and pastry, I have learnt how to use equipment and can use the cash register. The staff help us."
Daniel, has worked as a service user at the Farm for over four years and carries a range of jobs looking after the park and animals, said: "I'm really pleased that the Farm won't close. It's a relief for everyone. I'm looking forward to finding out what the new people will do."
Rachel, a staff member at Thrift Farm who works closely with the adults who have a learning disability, said: "I am utterly thrilled to hear the news that the Farm has been saved. It is a huge relief for both clients and staff who have worked tirelessly to remain positive throughout this process. I am super excited for what the future holds!”
In total the Council received three business plans to run Thrift Farm, each were carefully considered before Kids Play and Mead Open Farm were selected as the preferred provider.
The Cabinet report, meeting webcast and details of the decision can be found here