Loan helps rehab centre recruit 100 new staff

A £250,000 loan has helped a Sheffield rehabilitation centre to increase staff numbers by 300 per cent.

STEPS was one of the first businesses to secure funding from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund. The loan in 2017 came just after the centre was launched by sisters Toria Chan and Jules Leahy to address the lack of facilities for younger patients in need of intensive rehabilitation. It is now a national centre of excellence for adults recovering from brain or spinal injuries and complex trauma.

The sisters and their fellow directors invested more than £1.6m of their own money to build the state-of-the-art centre, which comprises 23 bedrooms, a large therapy gym and a hydrotherapy pool, along with games and music rooms.

The three-year loan, which was fully repaid last year, enabled significant operational improvements to boost capacity. Since then, staff numbers have increased from 35 to 140. The centre has now welcomed more than 200 clients and has recently reached full capacity. It will now review options for expansion, initially on an adjacent site it owns, and will invest in more specialist VR and robotic rehabilitation equipment. STEPS offers specialist rehabilitation, with fees paid by the NHS, insurers and clients’ compensation payments, as well as self-funding clients.

Jules Leahy, founder and business development director at STEPS, said: “We have been on an incredible journey since we launched in 2017 and we are thrilled to have been  able to make such a huge impact on our clients’ lives. NPIF has been an important part in helping our dream come to fruition, with its funding helping to facilitate considerable operational improvements to help get us to where we are today. Obtaining finance for early-stage businesses is challenging and Mercia provided us with invaluable support from the offset – crucially they completely understood and believed in what we were doing and having their support at the time we most needed it was invaluable.”

Lucy Nickson, Vice-Chair of the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “I’m delighted to see a great South Yorkshire business get the recognition and investment it deserves. This NPIF funding is welcomed as it enables STEPS to grow and expand on the fantastic work they’re doing to benefit the people of our region and beyond. We’re focused on bringing stronger, greener and fairer growth to South Yorkshire, and this is made possible through the excellence and dedication of our people and businesses such as STEPS.”

Pete Sorsby, investment director at Mercia, said: “STEPS is an incredibly unique business. Toria, Jules and the management team have put in many years of hard work and investment to make the centre what it is today – a nationally recognised rehabilitation facility. With future expansion plans in the pipeline, I have no doubt that STEPS will continue to go from strength-to-strength, and we are pleased to have been on that journey with them.”

Sean Hutchinson at British Business Bank, said: “NPIF was launched in 2017 and STEPS was one of our earliest investments, so it has been excellent to watch it grow and excel over the last few years. We look forward to working with like minded businesses in future to fulfil their growth plans.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.