Northamptonshire elderly and homeless charities lose funding worth more than £1.5m

A photo taken at 20111 in the autumn centre showing l-r Barbara Lee, Karleen Campbell (volunteer) and Jock Harper
A photo taken at 20111 in the autumn centre showing l-r Barbara Lee, Karleen Campbell (volunteer) and Jock Harper

More than £1.5m is being taken away from a dozen Northamptonshire charities which provide vital services to the over-65s, the vulnerable and the homeless.

Established organisations such as the Autumn Centre in Corby, Marlow House in Desborough and the Dostiyo Asian Women’s and Girls Association in Northampton have all been told that the funding given to them by Northamptonshire County Council as part of its £1.6m social wellbeing contract will come to an end in March.

The Autumn Centre, a charity which helps the over-65s in Corby, has said the loss of its £57,000 funding will put it under financial pressure and could impact on the services it offers.

The charities losing their funding are: Wellingborough Afro-Carribean Association, Serve, Autumn Centre, Mayday Trust, Midland Heart, Marlow House, Catch 22, Glamis Hall, Age UK, Delos (Creative Support), Dostiyo Asian Women’s and Girls Association and NAASH.

The contract was for day centre services for the over-65s to help combat social isolation and loneliness and also for helping those who were homeless with wrap-around care once they had been accommodated.

The figures lost by each charity as part of the three-year project delivered by Commsortia on behalf of the county council have not been made public. The original funding from the public health grant was £2.4m per year when it was awarded in March 2017, but that was dropped down to £1.6m last year after Public Health England found that some of the services were not compliant with its guidelines.

The authority says it is currently consulting about social wellbeing priorities but has not said whether any further money will be available.

Commsortia’s chief executive David Ward said the three-year contract coming to an end was very disappointing.

He said: “We are working with different organisations in the hope we can now find different pots of money. The social prescribing initiative being promoted by the council is good news, although one would hope it is additional money coming into the county.”

Autumn Centre trustee Navin Bhatia said the loss of funding was worrying, but he was hopeful Commsortia could help the centre source other funds. The charity also fundraises to gather income and receives a £37,000 grant from Corby Council.

He said: “We are not going to give up as we are passionate about helping the community. Our services are a lifeline for a lot of people and we have about 900 members. Many of theose have physical disabilities and we provide a lot of activities for dementia patients. It is our way of trying to keep the elderly safe and give them a better quality of life. For many, there is nowhere else for them to go and without us they might suffer from social isolation and mental illnesses.”

The director of public health Lucy Wightman is in the final stages of agreeing a social impact bond which may bring about £3m of private finance into the council, which could be used on community work.

The 12 organisations have written a letter to Lucy Wightman protesting against the contract end and will be involving the county’s MPs.

The county council is having to cut services across all areas after it ran out of funds last year.

County councillor Mick Scrimshaw said that ‘time and time again it is the vulnerable and those who can afford it the most who are paying the price of austerity and the mismangement of local government service in Northamptonshire.’

A county council spokesman said: “Public health is currently working with partners and stakeholders to review local needs in relation to health and wellbeing opportunities for local people and understand the level of need in relation to wider public health and prevention challenges.

“We will be undertaking a consultation exercise during the autumn and this will help inform our understanding of social wellbeing priorities and how any available funding may be invested beyond March 2020. It’s important that public health funding is prioritised against the areas of greatest need locally, addressing health inequalities and demonstrating value for money, as well as being fully compliant with public health grant requirements.

“In view of the contract ending, the Autumn Centre will be supported over the coming months to look for alternative sources of funding and funding models by other day centres.”