Norfolk day centres under threat

THOUSANDS of Norfolk pensioners are facing the loss of day centres because controversial changes to the way social care is funded means a cash lifeline which helps keep them running has been severed.

Twenty-one organisations have been told their funding from Norfolk County Council will be withdrawn from April, as pensioners are given their own budgets to spend on activities like trips to day centres, handicrafts or outings.

County hall says the changes will give extra freedom for service users to spend their money on the care they want and said centre-goers could use their personal budgets to keep them open, adding it would help organisers look for alternative sources of funding.

But it has become clear that many of the organisations would cease to exist because of the withdrawal of funding.

Centres in Methwold, Norwich, Costessey, Terrington, Heacham, King’s Lynn, Stoke Ferry, Burnham Market, Aldborough, Holt, Reepham and Wells and are set to lose funding. Sixty-seven centres will continue to receive funding.

David Harwood, cabinet member for adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said personal budgets were already proving very popular with people who had taken them up.

He said: “But at the same time, we recognise there is still a place for some traditional day services and our challenge is to provide a balance of both options, supporting providers through these changes as much as possible.

“We are not closing down services – but in some cases we are reducing or withdrawing funding. Even where funding is being withdrawn or reduced, we are confident that most services will continue to exist, and we are working closely with providers to identify alternative funding. This could include people switching to personal budgets.”

Hilary MacDonald, chief executive of Age Concern Norfolk said “Much of the review carried out by Norfolk County Council has been based upon the need to transform social care services in readiness for the transfer to personal budgets, which, in theory, should allow for more choice and control for people using services.

“It is, therefore older people, their views and their choices that should be driving these changes forward. This can only happen if people are provided with sufficient information and the support they need to make an informed choice. Sometimes people will require independent advocacy support to be able to do this.

“We will be doing all that we can to monitor that this is indeed the experience of older people across the county affected by these changes.”