Wiltshire Council to phase out funding for day centres

Elderly residents who have been on their own for years are upset that the lunch clubs that allow them to make friends may have to stop running.

An 89-year-old resident who has lived alone since her husband died has described her club as a “lifesaver”.

She attends Till Valley Day Centre in Shrewton every week.

“I have been on my own since 1997, and since I stopped driving I have been very lonely,” she said.

“When you’re left on your own, and you are too old to drive, it’s a lifesaver.”

In new proposals from Wiltshire Council, some 26 friendship and luncheon clubs in the county face grant funding cuts, which has been described as a “disgrace” for the most vulnerable.

The clubs, allowing adults with learning disabilities and older people to meet and socialise will see their funding reduced by 50 per cent in 2022/2023, and the remaining 50 per cent in 2023/2024.

Read more: Friendship and luncheon club funding could be slashed says council

Nearly a third of the clubs in Wiltshire facing grant cuts – nine of the 26 – are in the old Salisbury District Council area.

These clubs will now face questions over how to source funding, which could possibly mean the end for some clubs.

The elderly resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, added: “I have two outings every week – one in the day centre, and another to do my shopping in Tesco.

“Out in the country like you are, and when you stop driving, you are on your own completely.

“It’s done me the world of good. It’s got me out of myself. It’s something to look forward to once a week.”

David Paterson, 79, Chairman of the Trustees for Harnham Day Centre, said that the centre will have to rely on charity or donations when the cuts come into force.

He said: “We have to rely on charity or donations, or making money out of the guests, but we can’t make money out of the guests. We charge them £3.50, and we have said we will keep their charge as it is.

“We don’t want it to impact our guests. We will press on with all the other challenges.

“We target people who are on their own, and get people out of lonely situations. I think many people were really badly affected by the lockdowns and loneliness.

“It is a worrying time but we feel like we’re doing a good service, and the guests feel like we’re doing a good service, and we have room for more guests.”

A member of the Mere Day Centre, which is also facing cuts, said: “Our remit as a charity, and the subject of our grant up until now from Wiltshire Council, is and always has been is to address the needs of people in danger of isolation and loneliness and all that arises from that.

“The cuts would make a considerable hole in our budget. We are very fortunate, with good management, to be in a sound position, so we can keep running for a while but in the long run, it will throw us back entirely onto charitable giving, or the business of constant looking for digital funding, from lotteries or from other means.

“For other day centres, it could well mean the end for them. We are fortunate that we don’t have to face that imminently, but ultimately we will have to consider it.”

The proposals have also been met with resistance from councillors in the area.

Brian Dalton, for Harnham West, said that it was a “disgrace” that funding to the “most vulnerable” was being cut.

Mere councillor George Jeans added that it will be a “real blow to many of the residents”, and Shrewton parish councillor Ron Lock said the announcement was a “shock”.

Richard Clewer, Leader of Wiltshire Council, said that the new proposals help to ensure equal provision across the county, as funding is currently “unequal”, with just over £5,000 of funding into Salisbury and about £73,000 of funding into Marlborough.

A new tender will begin in the summer for day opportunities, and the council will support clubs if they would like to consider “alternative sources of funding including applying to area boards”.

“Our aim will be to ensure residents’ social needs continue to be met, either by existing community resources or through providing new services and we will be asking people currently using these services to share their thoughts,” he said.

He added that residents should contact the Council’s Advice and Contact service on 0300 456 011 if they are feeling isolated and are not able to access services nearby.

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