He’s spent years revolutionising the specialist care services industry – now, Peter Cullimore of Universal Care has gifted his entire portion of the spoils of his venture to charity with the King/Cullimore Charitable Trust
In the 1980s Peter Cullimore and his wife Gillian hatched a plan to shake up the care industry by looking after people in their own homes, rather than in retirement or nursing homes.
Now, almost 30 years later, the idea has grown into a hugely successful venture, Universal Care, which provides specialist services to those with disabilities or dementia, the elderly and those recovering from surgical procedures in Beaconsfield, the Chilterns and the south-east.
Until 1986, Cullimore had a successful career in the electricity supply industry. “I enjoyed it 99.9 per cent of the time, but it was becoming very gradually more bureaucratic,” he says, “and I decided it was time to think about doing something else.
“My wife’s mother was being cared for by an agency. She was provided for by some very good carers, but the agency weren’t particularly well organised themselves, and we thought that we could do it better. My wife, who was a district nurse, died 17 years ago, and I continued developing the idea.”
In 1998 he set up the King/Cullimore Charitable Trust. “A relative of Gillian’s found herself in possession of an appreciable amount of money,” explains Cullimore, “and decided that once her family had been well looked after the rest of it should be going towards charity”. The trust, with Cullimore as its chairman, has since made charity donations in excess of £4m.
Part of his decision to donate his shares, says Cullimore, concerns continuity of his three-decade project. “So many people – my wife, myself and others – have put an awful lot of time and effort into the business, and from time to time we get approaches from larger businesses who want, in simple terms, to gobble us up, but this would mean losing the type of ethos we’ve built up over the years.
“So it was a question of wanting to produce continuity. I suppose, in the last three years, I’ve been thinking about the legacy of what my wife and I built up to be continued into the future.
“Giving the shares in the business to the charitable trust has achieved two things: firstly, thanks to the way the contracts are set up, the business will continue long after I’ve gone; secondly, more of the profits from the business will go to many charities which are very much in need of it to meet their objectives.”
So what advice would he have for anyone considering following in his footsteps? “There’s a certain amount of bureaucracy that has to be got through to build up a trust, but I think the most important thing is that there needs to be a certain base amount of money for it to be economically worthwhile to set up. Also, once it’s set up, it’s necessary to have trustees who have got the same philosophy.
“We also had to make sure that the staff – the office workers as well as all our carers – realised that it was being done for the right reason and that there would be work for them into the future; that effectively there would be no change in May 2015, to the way things had operated up until 30 April 2015.”
Cullimore adds that whereas once staff could be paid by dividends, now the business will have to pay more in employers’ national insurance – but stresses that this is more than offset by other factors. “Now, the business won’t have to pay corporation tax because we’ll make sure that after charitable donations it’s a zero-profit situation. There’s also a possibility we might get some form of rate relief.”
In conclusion, Cullimore advises getting strong independent financial advice, but certainly won’t be having any regrets about an impressive act of generosity which will ensure his and his wife’s excellent work in the health care field will continue long into the future.