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Norwich OAP charity fears cuts

PUBLISHED: 18:04 04 October 2010

A charity offering support and advice to older people is warning that it may have to cut services unless it can bridge an anticipated funding shortfall of £120,000.

Age UK Norwich, formerly Age Concern Norwich, is planning to launch a major public appeal for the first time in order to cope with an expected cut in funding from Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council.

Phil Wells, chief executive of the charity, said the cuts would jeopardise its ability to put the government’s “big society” plans into practice.

Speaking at the charity’s annual meeting on Friday, at Princes Street United Reformed Church, Mr Wells said: “Bluntly, we need £100,000 over the next year if we are not to cut our services to the community just as they are most needed. The voluntary sector is used to potential crises being round the corner. Every year I have presented a budget in October and we have got through, very often by something as simple as a legacy that comes through.

“Over the last 18 months the situation has become critical across all fronts. Local government, both in terms of the city and county council, are going to face drastic cuts. Often councils make cuts to salaries, but cutting people is unpleasant and it’s expensive in terms of redundancy payments. My fear is that it’s easier to cut the purchases you make from other organisations and the voluntary sector looks like a fairly soft target at the moment.”

He said Age UK Norwich’s income from charitable trusts had also dropped over the last two years as the trusts themselves saw funds dwindle due to the recession and increased demand from other charities. “We estimate that it costs £300 a year to support each volunteer in Norwich looking after an older person.”

Mr Wells estimated that £120,000 in income from city and county was at risk, although the exact amount will not be known until after the Comprehensive Spending Review later this month and December’s grant settlement to local authorities.

The charity plans to ask the public for help. Mr Wells said the amount required amounted to just 10p a month from every working- age adult in the city, or 35p a month from every older person. “We’re going to have to go to the public. We have rattled tines before but not on this scale, and we have got to get so much better at it,” said Mr Wells.

Age UK Norwich’s advice and welfare rights services would be at risk if the charity does not get the funding it needs. “If I get my trustees to agree, we will keep services open,” said Mr Wells. “We will risk our reserves until this money comes in. If it doesn’t we will have to reduce or close services.”

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