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Age Concern Malling to close in May and blames KCC funding cuts

By Luke May

A charity providing care for dozens of vulnerable people with dementia is set to shut down.

Age Concern Malling has faced financial problems since 2017 and with the lease on its building now up for renewal, the charity has decided to close.

Manager Lyn Rootes said the Norman Road charity had struggled after a £2,000 funding cut by Kent County Council and losing members.

Age Concern Malling will shut down next month
Age Concern Malling will shut down next month

She said: "We've been struggling for the last two years. Myself and the chairman made the decision to close after we couldn't renew the lease.

"We suggested KCC keep us afloat until we sell the service to someone else. They've refused to renew the lease. Without it how are being to find another buyer?

"They haven't looked at the whole picture."

Cllr Graham Gibbens, KCC's cabinet member for adult social care, said the council had offered to renew the lease.

Cllr Graham Gibbens, KCC cabinet member for adult social care and public health
Cllr Graham Gibbens, KCC cabinet member for adult social care and public health

The Malling charity's base in Rotary House, West Malling is open six days a week, providing dementia care as well as community bathing and foot care.

Its closure will put 26 people out of work and leave 47 people with dementia without support.

More than 90 elderly people use the service altogether.

Mrs Rootes accepted the charity had been struggling over the winter months, with many of its paying clients missing out on sessions due to hospital appointments.

With money running low, KCC stepped into to pay staff wages in January, contributing £33,000 since then.

Mrs Rootes added: "Right now we're working tirelessly to make sure our clients are aware of the other services out there.

"Unfortunately this is a sign of the times, charities out there are all suffering. Our staff have been amazing to carry on despite the uncertainty."

In February, Age UK Tunbridge Wells' chief exec Sandra Springett warned many local charities are facing uncertainty as KCC prepares to change the way it funds some of its older contracts.

Graham Gibbens, cabinet member for adult social care and public health, said: "In January, Age Concern Malling informed KCC of serious concerns about its financial sustainability as a result of a drop in numbers of clients using the service in the latter part of 2018.

"Following discussions with Age Concern Malling, the council agreed to provide additional funding to meet the budget shortfall so the provider could assess future options and determine whether continuing the organisation was viable.

"Reassurances were also given that KCC would renew the lease on Rotary House once Age Concern Malling confirmed it could continue to operate. No such confirmation was received.

"Unfortunately, in February the council was informed Age Concern Malling would be wound up and that a transition plan for clients was being developed. Further confirmation was received on Monday, April 23, that the organisation would close at the end of May.

"Age Concern Malling runs a number of services for around 90 older people, including support for independent living, home bathing and a day service for older people with dementia. These services are subsidised through grants of £78,680 for 2018-19 and £80,155 in 2017/18. Dementia day services are funded through a separate grant of £22,713.

"It has never been the intention that Age Concern Malling or any other organisation subsidised by the council should be entirely dependent on local authority funding.

"At this time KCC’s priority is ensuring all individuals affected continue to receive appropriate support and where necessary we will work closely with Age Concern staff, residents and their families to secure appropriate alternative provision."

For more stories in and around Malling, click here.

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