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KCC funding changes could cost Age UK Faversham & Sittingbourne £400k a year

By Anna MacSwan

A charity that helps elderly people could face the loss of £400,000 of funding a year.

Age UK in Faversham and Sittingbourne receives an annual grant from Kent County Council to provide services including personal care, Meals on Wheels, and day centres where older people can socialise.

But from March 2019 the council plans to move to a contract-based system which would require charities to go through a tender process.

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

It is feared that bidding for contracts will be difficult for small charities, particularly if they are paid in arrears, and that thresholds for winning funding will be higher.

As a result, the charity expects to increase the prices it charges older people to use its centres this year, currently £12 per day for transport, lunch and taking part in activities.

Cuts have already seen Age UK – which employs 90 staff in Faversham, Teynham and Sittingbourne – reduce the number of information and advice staff from four to one, and using volunteers to drive buses.

It has also reduced the number of days its Faversham day centre can support people with personal care needs from five to three per week.

Further cutbacks are feared over the next year, as the increase in charges is unlikely to cover the shortfall.

Sue Cliffe, interim chief officer of Faversham and Sittingbourne Age UK, said: “It leaves all Age UKs and Age Concerns with a lot less funding.

“On average, I would say 35-40% less income, so no matter how big or small you are, you will be losing a sizable chunk of your income.

“And it’s either put up the charges to such high levels that older people won’t be able to afford to attend or use the services.

“We’re doing our best to kick up a fuss across the county to say this is important work that’s being done.

“But also we’ve got to prepare for a future with less money. And even if the contracts are won, we think it’s going to be a lot tighter.”

The charity is recruiting more volunteers to help run its services.

Ms Cliffe said: “You can help in lots of different ways, as a trustee, or for an hour a day on reception, any way at all will be really important to help this charity survive.”

Jean Spears, 88, has attended Age UK’s COGS Club for the past six months. The club offers lunch to people living with mild to moderate dementia, and gives them the chance to take part in quizzes and games.

“People really look forward to coming here,” she said.

“A lady in her mid 70s, when I first came she would sit very quietly, no response, and gradually, after talking to her, encouraging her, cheering her on, she now is enjoying herself.

“I was losing the art of conversation – when you are not talking to people you seem to lose the ability to explain things.

“I just want to say thank you and please keep it going. I would miss it dreadfully.”

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