An organisation that hires out mobility scooters to elderly and disabled people in Northampton has said it may be forced to close by Christmas as funding is slashed by half.
Shopmobility, the service run by the Northampton Door to Door service, which hires out the vehicles to more than 400 people per year has been told that the £22,000 it previously received from Northampton Borough Council’s Partnership Grant Fund (PGF) has been reduced to £11,000. Funding for the Door to Door service itself has also been drastically reduced.
Keith Goodwin, Shopmobility manager, said: “As a charity we have no reserves and our contingency plans will not be able to cope with that reduction. If we can’t find the rest of that money then we can only run until December.
“Our users rely on our service to socialise, go shopping and even go to hospital, and without it they simply wouldn’t be able to get out. One of our trustees said it would make her a prisoner in her own home.”
The service hires out the scooters for 3,000 short sessions per year, priced at £2, and a further 1,000 longer term hires. It employs one full-time member of staff and two part-time, but the rest are volunteers.
Mr Goodwin said that the whole operation costs about £25,000 to run per year and that monies not covered through council funding are generated through donaions, session fees and fundraising.
One of our trustees said it would make her a prisoner in her own homeKeith Goodwin, Shopmobility manager
He said: “We have already had some generous donations to help us to the end of the year and we have applied for a number of grant pots and to charitable trusts. We have also applied to Northampton BID as the service is an essential element in drawing people into the town centre.
“We know that the council have received many more applications for a share of the grant than they can give to and we understand that there are many other people in need. But we have come to a point where we don’t really have any alternative. Last year the funding was cut by 10 per cent and it was just about manageable, but 50 per cent isn’t.”
Mr Goodwin also raised concerns about the future of the Door to Door service, which sends drivers to transport elderly and disabled people in the town to and from shops and doctor appointments, as well as any other engagements.
He said: “The budget is set to be cut by about 13 per cent, around £22,000, which means we will have to drastically reduce the service by cutting office cover to one person and removing paid driver holiday cover. This will mean cutting the number of journeys we make by about a quarter.”
The borough council’s PGF has an overall budget of £550,000, which they have this year split across 24 community organisations set up to support people in Northampton.
Councillor Brandon Eldred, the council’s cabinet member for community engagement said: “Every year our Partnership Grant Fund invests over half a million pounds in helping support a range of local agencies, charities and community groups.
“We always have difficult decisions to make as we look at how our funding can best help people in Northampton as every year this fund is oversubscribed.
“We know that even a small grant can make a big difference to the lives of people across our town. So we are committed to protecting this annual £550,000 fund for the next four years. And, even if an applicant is unsuccessful in getting the full amount they have applied for, as in this case, we will work with them to look at alternate sources of funding.”