LETTER: Cuts fears for the elderly

I write on behalf of Age Concern Eastwood, which provides a luncheon club on Edward Road in Eastwood run by a group of trustees.

Age Concern Eastwood, as part of the Nottinghamshire network of Age Concern, could be severely affected by the Notts County Council budget cuts which may mean vital services to the elderly being cut. Clearly, our primary concern is that a consequence of this action could be the closure of our services and that the financial impact of the inevitable resultant large numbers of vulnerable older people experiencing social exclusion, lack of access to nutrition, wellbeing and respite care.

In total any cuts would potentially affect almost 9,000 places available to vulnerable older people currently receiving services from us across the county as follows:

Age Concern Carlton & District – approximately 4,000 places; Age Concern Eastwood – approximately 1,100 places; Age Concern Mansfield – approximately 2,400 places; Age Concern Warsop & District – approximately 1,200 places.

Completed questionnaires from our clients, all of whom are vulnerable older people and mostly on very limited budgets, have been returned to the relevant department as has been requested.

The reason they come to Age Concern (not to be confused with Age UK) is that we are community based, and because we are managed and run by volunteers we offer very cost effective services and are able to offer phenomenal added value which is seldom found in the statutory sector.

Importantly, we suggest that any such cuts in this service would require the county council to increase provision from other services (e.g. respite care) to compensate and meet their obligations. Further, such additional costs from elsewhere in the county council budget would greatly outweigh any projected savings on transport services, in our view.

In summary, the county council would be simply transferring costs from one budget to another, but with a net overall increase in cost for what is effectively a reduced level of social care.

The elderly people we work with are highly dependent upon the county council transport service and we would wish to highlight the key elements which we believe make it so vital:

Trained and trusted regular drivers who build relationships with vulnerable older people, some of whom can sometimes be anxious and confused; A trusted driver who can escort both from and to the clients door, making sure it is locked, and is trained in safe embarkation and disembarkation; the county vehicles are designed to have easy access and have taillifts; the county provide a reliable service which is built around relationships with vulnerable people and provide them with the security of service which is so important; we, as providers, have peace of mind in the knowledge that the county manage this service efficiently.

We believe there is a serious underestimation as to how vital this service is to vulnerable older people and without adequate and reliable transport provision the future of Age Concern’s Lunch Club and day care provision throughout the county will be in jeopardy and may have to close with the loss of almost 9,000 high quality places per year at no other cost to the county council.

Finally, it is for county council to calculate the ultimate consequent cost to the council of closure, but we would submit that the impact of this number of vulnerable older people being unable to access vital services and the resultant-social exclusion, lack of access to nutrition, wellbeing and respite care would simply transfer itself to other parts of the county council’s budget and prove significantly more costly than the savings they project.

Josie Marsters,

Age Concern Eastwood