Dafydd Jones, business consultant with Gwesty Seren, explains how a loan from Charity Bank assisted with the purchase and renovation of Wales’s first hotel designed primarily for people with learning and physical disabilities.
Gwesty Seren is a social enterprise that operates as a standalone, wholly-owned subsidiary of the Seren Ffestiniog Cyf charity group. Seren was established 21 years ago with the purpose of supporting people with learning disabilities to live, work, socialise and integrate into the local community. Seren is the second largest employer in the community with over 70 employees.
In addition to its regular provision, such as providing work opportunities, it also organises holidays twice a year for its service users with learning disabilities. Time and time again Seren came up against difficulties where people were struggling with accommodation that had claimed to be fully accessible.
Dafydd Jones tells us more:
“When the Community Asset Transfer initiative was set up in Wales in 2010, it happened to coincide with the sale of a Gwynedd County Council care home. The idea to create hotel accommodation designed with people of all disabilities in mind was born and Gwesty Seren, meaning Hotel Star in Welsh, was established. With grants from the Community Asset Transfer Fund, Visit Wales, Magnox Socio Economic Fund and other local funds plus two loans from Charity Bank, we were able to purchase and complete extensive renovations on the building.
"We have had a good relationship with Charity Bank from day one. As with any new business, especially one of such an innovative nature, the first couple of years were quite hard. Throughout these tough times, Charity Bank was very supportive. If we ever needed another loan, Charity Bank would be our first port-of-call.
“Gwesty Seren opened in April 2014 as a 3-star, 10-bedroom hotel and restaurant. It is specifically designed to facilitate the ease, comfort and enjoyment of those with disabilities and many families that have members with a disability appreciate this. There are lifts both inside and outside, spacious rooms and bathrooms, wide corridors, hearing loops, and a neutral, calming decor. In addition to this tailored design, there is also an atmosphere of understanding and support at the hotel that can be difficult to find elsewhere.
“We have had a good relationship with Charity Bank from day one.”Dafydd Jones, business consultant with Gwesty Seren