Age UK might have to close centres in Northamptonshire if funding is axed

We visited Age UK in Northampton this week where residents and volunteers were pictured by Kirsty Edmonds dancing and having fun.
We visited Age UK in Northampton this week where residents and volunteers were pictured by Kirsty Edmonds dancing and having fun.

Age UK Northamptonshire has said they might have to close some of their day centres if their funding is not renewed by Northamptonshire County Council.

Age UK runs seven day centres across the county for more than 300 individual elderly people every week - 63 per cent of those people have an informal carer at home.

Service manager for Age UK Northamptonshire, Fern Overton pictured with chief executive, Christopher Duff, by Kirsty Edmonds.

Service manager for Age UK Northamptonshire, Fern Overton pictured with chief executive, Christopher Duff, by Kirsty Edmonds.

It's a place where many people go not just to have a chat but also to be bathed and have their hair and feet done.

But there is growing concern by Age UK and ten other voluntary groups in Northamptonshire that their funding will not be renewed by the county council leaving 3,500 people recieving no support.

It comes as a three-year Social Wellbeing Contract - which is currently funded through the NCC Public Health pot - will cease at the end of March 2020 (previously reported here).

This means Age UK might have to shut some of their day centres, or reduce the number of days the day centres remain open for their clients.

Pictures taken at Age UK in Northampton by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures taken at Age UK in Northampton by Kirsty Edmonds.

Organisations who are under threat of shutting, unless new funding can be found, include Northamptonshire Age UK, The Autumn Centre, Catch 22, Dostiyo, Glamis Hall, Marlow House Welcomes, Mayday Trust, Midland Heart, Naash, Serve and ACA.

Age UK Northamptonshire bosses argue that reducing their funding would, in turn, cost the county council millions of pounds to put their elderly clients into residential care or respite.

Service manager for Age UK Northamptonshire, Fern Overton, said: "Sixty-three per cent of our clients have an informal carer at home and that informal carer and us mean that they can stay living independantly.

"Without us that would be 63 per cent of our clients that would need residential care. That's a huge amount of people, and obviously that residential care has to be paid for somewhere."

Pictures taken at Age UK in Northampton by Kirsty Edmonds.

Pictures taken at Age UK in Northampton by Kirsty Edmonds.

In an open letter sent to Northamptonshire County Council's chief executive, Theresa Grant, the voluntary organisations said they have now achieved even better value for money after the overall contract has reduced in value from £2.6 million in 2016 to £1.6 million in 2018.

Age UK chief executive, Christopher Duff, added: "We would have to cut provision, we would have to cut services. Our different centres would be under threat of closure.

"Even a centre like this that is open Monday to Friday we would really have to assess having it open five days a week or condensing it down to two or three, and it would have a massive impact on us."

Over the eleven organisations there are 171 volunteers who provide a saving of £438,920 a year.

Describing what Age UK means to her, Fern said: "When our drivers pick clients up in the morning they are in the home, they put the cat out and put the heater on the alarm is set and sometimes our drivers have to help clients get dressed. Our drivers have saved lives in terms of the fact that some of our clients are so socially isolated that we are the only people they see once a week.

"We have gone to pick them up in the morning and they've not been waiting outside like they normally are, they're on the floor where they've been all night. We've detected burglaries where an older person has been broken into during the night and they've not known because they've taken their hearing aids out.

"When our drivers have got there in the morning they've found that they've been locked in and they've been burgled. It's the whole package, it's not about turning up, paying your money and getting your activities and lunch it's about being part of the family."