10:50am Thursday 31st January 2013
By Lauren May
Voluntary groups who support hundreds of elderly and vulnerable residents every day could face closure after being stripped of funding by Merton Council.
Six adult social care groups, previously funded by the council, have reacted with shock, dismay and anger after bids for funds were rejected due to new criteria outlined in the council's Ageing Well initiative.
Under the scheme only groups deemed to help keep the elderly living in their homes for longer, delaying the need for council funded social care, will receive funding from the council's three year £3m adult social care grant.
Groups set to lose funding from April include Merton Mind, Friends in St Helier, Positive Network, the Asian Elderly Group of Merton, the Merton and Wandsworth Asylum Association Welcome, and the Merton Goans Senior Citizens Association.
Users, volunteers and staff are now facing uncertainty with some groups fearing they may have to close.
The move is expected to save the council £500,000 over three years based on an estimated 182 people being able to stay in their homes for an extra year.
Councillor Stephen Alambritis, leader of Merton Council, said: "The benefit will be that Mrs Jones, who was in danger of going into a care home, will now be able to stay at home for longer.
"If we hadn’t put this in place more people would go into care homes which would be more expensive for the tax payer and for the council.
"There will be organisations who will be upset and who won’t be happy but there will be transitional funding of six months available and they will be helped to get alternative funding or come up with a business plan to then be able to re-apply to the council."
New services to be introduced include an incontinence service, carer counselling sessions, fitness and fall prevention classes, increased community transport and buddy systems for the disabled.
Chris Frost, chief executive of Merton's Voluntary Service Council said: "Over the past couple of years there has been a shift in the funding culture.
"It’s now more about the service provided than any one particular organisation.
"Some groups were not successful in their bids for funding, but we will be supporting those to plan for their future in a variety of ways such as identifying alternative funding, pooling resources with similar organisations and working more with volunteers.
"This will help ensure continued support for members of those groups."
Age UK Merton, Merton & Morden Guild, MertonVision and Volunteer Centre Merton have also had their funding slashed while Merton Community Transport, Merton Mencap and Carers Support Merton will enjoy increased support.
The biggest gain is for Wimbledon Guild of Social Welfare which has seen funding more than double from £112,290 to £289,650.
About: Founded in 2002, funded since 2003.
Provide: Classes, activities and advice sessions for up to 500 people a week.
Previous year’s funding: £34,140
Grace Salmon, director, said: "The Positive Network has a good relationship with social workers who have put forward people to use our services because we are helping to prevent them going into care.
"We have people who have had strokes and people with cancer and dementia.
"Those sorts of people have been referred to us because we have activities that keep them going so they don’t need to go into nursing homes which would be more expensive for the council."
What next: Will be seeking alternative funding with long term aim of becoming self sufficient.
Merton Goan’s Senior Citizens Association
About: Founded in 1995, funded by Merton Council since 2010.
Provide: Meeting place for up to 80 elderly people per month, keep fit and line dancing classes and lunch clubs.
Previous year’s funding: £4,290
A spokesman for the club said: "A lot of us are widowers and it’s a place where you can meet and get together.
"We look after people if they are sick and visit them in hospital to keep up their spirits.
"If people are not meeting friends they are going to get depressed and they will get sick in their home which will be more expensive."
What now: Anticipating having to cut services such as keep fit, line dancing and subsidising of meals.
Asian Elderly Group of Merton
About: Founded and funded since 1980.
Provide: Fitness classes, lectures and meals for up to 50 elderly people each week, three days a week.
Previous year’s funding: £63,790
Dr Moid Siddiqi, chairman, said: "We prevent social isolation, alleviate mental health issues and provide a safe environment for our members for social integration, exercise and mental stimulation.
"All our members will be hurt very badly.
"They will have no place to go and will be isolated completely in their homes.
"There is no organisation like us in the borough where they can go."
What now: The group held an emergency meeting on Tuesday to discuss the group’s future with its members.
Friends in St Helier
About: Founded in 1981, funded since 1982.
Provide: Hairdressing, chiropody, coffee mornings, lunch clubs, social activities and trips for around 70 elderly and disabled people a week around the St. Helier Estate.
Previous year’s funding: £36,290
A spokesman for the group said: "The closeness of the relationship we have between workers, volunteers and members means we get to know them well and can spot problems that others might not see.
"We believe very strongly that what we do does really help to keep them living independently - but this is something that we cannot prove."
What now: Searching for alternative funding.
About: Founded in 1978, funded by Merton Council for past 30 years.
Previous year’s funding: £58,120
What now: Not available for comment at time of press.
Merton and Wandsworth Asylum Association Welcome
About: Founded in 1993 funded by Merton Council for the last five years.
Provide: Advice on social welfare, housing and schooling and hot meals for around 25 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants a week.
Previous year’s funding: £45,000
Sheki Ba Habib, manager, said: "We provide a valuable service in the community and make such a difference.
"This is one of the reasons why we need to think where we can go from here as the service is needed here."
What now: Meeting with trustees over the coming weeks to discuss a way forward.
Successful organisations 2012/13 funding for adult social care, compared to 2013/14 funding granted.
Age UK Merton - 2012 - £113,420 - 2013 - £40,203
Carers Support Merton - 2012 - £222,000 - 2013 - £244,360
Merton & Morden Guild - 2012 - £88,980 - 2013 - £45,450
Merton Community Transport - 2012 - £15,000 - 2013 - £22,000
Merton Mencap - 2012 - £52,910 - 2013 - £78,841
MertonVision - 2012 - £127,570 - 2013 - £107,370.00
Volunteer Centre Merton - 2012 - £72,400 - 2013 - £48,800
Wimbledon Guild of Social Welfare - 2012 - £112,290 - 2013 - £289,650
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