Sunday, 24 October 2021

Closure threat to charity dementia group

A DAY care service which helps elderly people with dementia could close.

The Bluebells community club currently meets on two days a week at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road, Henley.

It is one of six out of eight clubs run by Age UK Oxfordshire that have been earmarked for closure at the end of March. Ninety-five older people are affected.

It follows cuts by Oxfordshire County Council, which is responsible for adult social care.

The charity attempted to maintain all eight clubs by changing the way it ran them, reducing costs and increasing income by encouraging more users and raising fees.

It also made use of the county council’s £98,000 “transition” fund, which was introduced after it cut grants to 47 day schemes.

Since September, the Bluebells sessions have been cut from four days a week to two, on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and the charges have increased by 50 per cent to £17.50.

However, Age UK Oxfordshire now says it can only continue running two of its community clubs.

Chief executive Penny Thewlis said: “Our original plan was to maintain all eight of our community clubs by reducing costs and increasing income. After four months of operating in the new way, it is clear that in six of our eight clubs, the increase in the number of members attending that we anticipated and hoped for has not happened.

“This means that the income we need to maintain the clubs in their current shape has not been generated.

“We have to think about how we can best use the resources available to us to continue the friendship and support that people value at our clubs in a different and more sustainable way.”

The community club in Nettlebed will continue to run as usual.

Last summer, the charity worked closely with its community information network team to find out more about what its clients wanted from their daytime support.

Out of more than 450 older people, only 20 joined one of their clubs, choosing instead to try different activities ranging from volunteering, playing golf, meeting friends at a restaurant and joining a bereavement support group.

Ms Thewlis said: “The current low attendance at our community clubs has simply reinforced the messages that we received throughout the summer, suggesting that there is an increasing demand for more diverse local activities across the county with services tailored to the individual’s needs and interests.”

In communities where Age UK Oxfordshire does not run community clubs it offers a range of social activities and opportunities, including a number of dementia support groups, carers health and wellbeing sessions, coffee mornings, lunch clubs and afternoon teas.

Ms Thewlis said: “We know that for people attending our clubs and for our long-standing staff team, the prospect of further changes is both worrying and upsetting.

“The charity is making a commitment to work with every individual affected to identify options for them to ensure that people do not lose the friendship and support they value.

“We take our responsibility to combat loneliness and isolation very seriously and we are determined that these changes will not undermine our efforts to address these issues.”

The charity is currently consulting with staff and older people and their families about the proposals and is encouraging feedback.

To contribute, write to: Kerry Tuson, executive assistant, Age UK Oxfordshire, 9 Napier Court, Barton Lane, Abingdon, OX14 3YT or email admin@ageuk

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