Suffolk Age UK to axe two day services in Bury St Edmunds after ‘decline in demand’

Saxon House, in Bury St Edmunds ANL-161121-165957009
Saxon House, in Bury St Edmunds ANL-161121-165957009
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A charity facing funding cuts is to axe two Bury St Edmunds services for older people and those with dementia following a decline in demand.

Suffolk Age UK has informed users it will close both the Links and Oasis day clubs at Saxon House, in Hillside Road, which will affect 65 clients.

The Links is a specialist service for people living with dementia and Oasis gives older people the chance to socialise. A letter to users says both clubs will finish on December 23.

In a statement to the Bury Free Press, Helen J. Taylor, chief executive officer for the charity, said clients pay a daily fee to attend but there has been a ‘decline in demand’ in recent years as the way in which people purchase such services has changed with personal budgets giving more choice and control.

“This can present a challenge for us with intermittent attendance and the loss of spaces being purchased in blocks by social services,” Ms Taylor said.

“We are further squeezed by the implication of a national living wage and the rent costs for the building.

“Last year we restructured the services to make some savings and we increased our marketing but sadly the day services are still being subsidised.

“We have taken the decision to close any services which are not covering their costs to ensure the funds we do have available are spent on our core services - information, benefits advice and befriending which are free of charge for people throughout the country.”

Meanwhile, the charity’s £500,000 funding from Suffolk County Council for its core services is set to be halved from April 2017 to 2018.

Suffolk Age UK will then have to apply for such funding from 2018 onwards as the council’s grants towards prevention services will be put out to competitive tender.

A council spokesman said: “We are very keen to work with Age UK Suffolk and we have done so for the past two and a half years. We continue to work with them to meet the financial demands we are all under, which includes seeking alternative funding sources and business support.”

A woman whose mother attends the Oasis day club said the service was ‘vital’ and a ‘lifeline’.

She said: “My mother has improved so much since she has been going. She’s happier, brighter and sharper. The staff and volunteers are really lovely. It’s such a shame. For all of the members it will be devastating.”

Amanda Bloomfield, chief executive of the Gatehouse charity, in Bury, which runs a lunch club for those with dementia and plans to open a ‘dementia hub’, said they are working with Suffolk Age UK and the council to move clients across.

Gatehouse is to open its lunch club for an extra day on a Monday from January. It aims to open the hub by Easter to provide a one stop shop for dementia services to help people on their journey from prediagnosis to end of life care.