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Age UK charity workers face losing jobs before Christmas

By Gazette reporter

Workers at Faversham’s Age UK centre have been given their notice - with their last day due to be just before Christmas.

One full-time staff member and five part-time workers were told their services will not be required after December 22.

And on the same day, the centre will shut for 11 days, leaving users home alone over the Christmas period.

Sue Cliffe, chief officer at Age UK Faversham and Sittingbourne
Sue Cliffe, chief officer at Age UK Faversham and Sittingbourne

Senior management blame cutbacks in funding from Kent County Council and a lack of legacies to the national charity.

An anonymous member of staff said standards had slipped since the death of well-respected Paula Owen, who built up the centre from a coffee shop for the elderly 33 years ago to the all-round caring centre it is today.

The worker said: “This will be the first time in 20 years that this has happened, leaving regular clients who have supported us isolated in their homes, spending Christmas alone.

“We have the fear of losing our jobs, which will have the knock-on effect of losing our homes.”

Redundant staff have been told they can reapply for jobs, but an added proviso is they must be able to drive the charity’s minibuses.

The worker said: “Those who cannot drive won’t be recruited.”

Staff at the centre say too much money was spent on new office carpets and equipment instead of personal protective clothing they believe they need.

Herne Bay-based interim chief officer Sue Cliffe said: “The decision was taken because of a reduction in core funding, a reduction in donations and bequests, plus rising overheads.”

“We have the fear of losing our jobs, which will have the knock-on effect of losing our homes" - anonymous worker

The advice section is being reduced to one 30-hour-a-week post.

Ms Cliffe said: “The trustees fully appreciate the need for this vital service and recognise what a positive impact it can have on an older person’s well-being when in receipt of their full benefit entitlement, so we are planning to train volunteers to assist with this crucial work.”

Meals on wheels will carry on as normal while home care will be run from Medway Age UK from December 1.

Ms Cliffe said: “Overall, we sincerely hope we are addressing the changing needs of older people and look to improve where we can.

“The trustees will continue to take prudent steps to secure a bright future for the charity and will endeavour to accommodate the ever changing needs of our clients within the financial pressures all charities are facing.”

She said the changes are common sense.

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