Charity May Be Forced To Stop Helping

A Suffolk charity which supports people who care for friends or family members with illnesses or disabilities could be forced to turn people away because of a huge growth in demand, its chief executive has revealed. Suffolk Family Carers provides respite and support for the hidden army of carers who devote their lives to looking after loved ones.

The number of new cases they dealt with in 2005/6 was up 63per cent from the previous year and has already increased dramatically in the first few months of this financial year.

Jacqui Martin, chief executive, said: “In 2004/5 we had 780 new referrals on top of the work we were already doing. In the following year this increased to 1,221 and we are anticipating this to increase even more this year. Referrals in April and May were already up by 21pc.”

The number of people currently on the charity’s records is 5,278.

Mrs Martin said: “It is putting pressure on our organisation and a lot of other voluntary organisations and we are in discussions with all our partners, whether that’s Suffolk County Council or other charities, about how we can meet those pressures.

“We are having to do a lot more fundraising because we don’t want to be in a position where we are having to turn people away.

“It hasn’t reached that stage yet but we can never rule it out completely because we don’t know what the financial situation in the NHS will be like a year down the line and, obviously, if it is not improving that will cause real problems.

“More and more people will become family carers and everybody involved in organisations like ours needs to think about how we are going support them, because they can’t do it on their own. I’m very concerned as to where and how these families will get breaks in the future.”

Mrs Martin said much of the increase could be put down to cutbacks made by cash-strapped health trusts and Suffolk County Council’s social services department.

She said: “I’ve spoken to a lot of our workers here and they are in no doubt that a lot of the new referrals are triggered by anxiety caused by cutbacks in both health and social care. For example, one family carer has had the amount of residential respite care her relative receives cut from eight weeks to four weeks, while another has had the day care she receives cut from two days a week to one.”

Despite the increase in demand, the charity will not have their funding from social services increased this year. While the actual amount they receive will not be cut, they will not receive any money to reflect inflation.