OSJCT has a history of care stretching back nearly 1,000 years.
OSJCT is sponsored by two historic Orders of Chivalry. One is the Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of Jerusalem, Rhodes & Malta (“the Order of Malta”). The other is the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem (“the Venerable Order”). Between them, these two Orders bring a combined total of over 1,000 years of experience in care, relief and service. Today, they provide OSJCT’s Trustees.
The Order of Malta
The Order of Malta originated when Christian Pilgrimages to the Holy Land began back in 1099. The Order established a hospice for sick pilgrims and organised defence of the routes to Jerusalem. During the subsequent centuries, the work of “care, relief and service” has expanded, being based on the concepts and management practices found in the records of the original hospice.
In essence, this involved the provision of food and general cleanliness (especially in bedding) all accompanied by compassion and a recognition of personal dignity – qualities which we still aim to match today.
Constant development in actual medical care can be seen through the discovery, in the Order’s Malta hospital during the 16th century, of the importance of sterilisation through to the modern day in the pioneering work in the treatment of pregnant HIV women in countries where this is prevalent. It retains its specific link with the Holy Land through its maternity hospital sited, appropriately, in Bethlehem.
Having experienced long periods of time in Rhodes and Malta, the Order of Malta is now overseen from a headquarters in Rome, and recognised as a Sovereign State in its own right. This status allowed recognition of past and contemporary care, relief and service to be marked in 1985 by admission to the United Nations Organisation with the Observer Status of a neutral state.
The Venerable Order of St John (Venerable Order)
The history of the Venerable Order was marked by Queen Victoria in 1888 with the grant of a Royal Charter. She became the Order’s Sovereign Head and, following the tradition of successive monarchs, HM The King holds this position today with HRH The Duke of Gloucester as Grand Prior.
The Venerable Order has Priories established throughout the world. Its best known activity is St John Ambulance. In the UK there is particular recognition of training in First Aid. The Order’s connection with the Holy Land continues through its celebrated eye hospital in Jerusalem.
How OSJCT was formed
The first association between the two Orders in Britain was formalised in 1975 through the provision of care in almshouses. At that time, the charity was called the Order of Malta Homes. From this beginning, The Orders of St John Trust (the Trust) was established in 1991 with its charitable aims being defined as: “the support of the sick, aged and infirm through the provision of serviced, residential facilities or in community care”.
In May 1992, the Trust took over the running of 16 residential care homes for older people from Lincolnshire County Council and became responsible for approximately 600 residents and 650 staff. Subsequent growth ensued with the acquisition on a similar basis of 18 care homes from Wiltshire County Council (now Wiltshire Council) in 1999/2000. At this point, the name of the charity was changed to The Orders of St John Care Trust and remains so today.
In December 2001, the Trust was successful in its bid, through a formal tender process, to take over responsibility for the management and reprovisioning of Oxfordshire County Council’s 19 care homes. This complex and extensive contract included the requirement to provide 11 new, state of the art care homes. To enable it to fulfil the terms of the contract, the Trust set up a joint venture with a leading housing association – Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing Association (now “bpha”). This joint venture is called The Oxfordshire Care Partnership (“OCP”). The Board of Trustees for OCP comprises of three Trustee Directors from each of OSJCT and bpha, plus one Trustee Director representing Oxfordshire County Council, thereby ensuring total transparency in the development of care provision with the local authority.
Four years later, in May 2005, the Trust took over responsibility for Gloucestershire County Council’s 21 care homes from another care provider. The structure of this transaction was very similar to that used in Oxfordshire, with the formation of The Gloucestershire Care Partnership ("GCP"), together with bpha and Gloucestershire County Council.
The Trust has now grown significantly from its original 16 homes in Lincolnshire to operate some 61 care homes and 11 extra care housing schemes, where care and support is provided to tenants living in their own specially designed apartments. It is responsible for the care of over 3,500 residents and employs nearly 4,800 staff.