Carers’ charity struggles to cope with increased demand
09:54 23 August 2014
A leading Norfolk charity has had to cut the amount of cash it hands to some of the most vulnerable people in the county as a result of government funding cuts, revealed today.
The EDP We Care Appeal, which has supported hundreds of unpaid carers since 2000, says it is struggling to cope with a sudden increase in demand for the grants it hands out.
Chairman Paddy Seligman believes the increase is caused by reductions in government grants handed out to local authorities, which means they are no longer able to offer the same level of service, with charities therefore picking up the bill.
For the first time in its 14-year history the charity has been forced to cut grants from £350 to £250 and even turn-down deserving pleas for help.
In one shocking case a 31-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer was forced to go to the toilet in a bucket – which his mother had to then empty – because no statutory body would pay £800 for his specialist toilet to be fixed.
Case study 1 - family feels effects of the cut
It was an application to the EDP We Care Appeal in June which pushed Paddy Seligman to speak out over the cuts to health and social care budgets.
Mary, not her real name, is a Norwich mother who cases for her son with cerebral palsy.
He is 31 and has been confined to an electric wheelchair for most of his life.
They live in a private home in Norwich, but when the electric pump broke on the toilet, they applied to the Norfolk Assistance Scheme, run by Norfolk County Council for the £800 fix.
They told the family they could not help and instead for the past seven weeks the man has been forced to use a bucket which his mother then has to clear out.
In the application to the EDP We Care Appeal, Mary said: “He feels his quality of life has diminished and feels bad and awkward that his middle aged mother has to empty his bucket of waste down the toilet.”
Mrs Seligman said the charity should not pay for the item as it is outside of their remit and said it should fall to the local authority to help.
In response Harold Bodmer, director of community Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “In this particular case there was some confusion about what was required and this was the reason why the family were pointed towards the We Care appeal. We have been working to get the situation resolved but we didn’t communicate this to the family in the way that we should have done and I’m sorry about this, as well as for the original confusion.
“We’ve been in touch with the family over the last couple of days to update them and offer immediate assistance and support. They have told us that they have arrangements in place to manage things for the present time until a permanent replacement for the toilet can be arranged, and they have said that they don’t need any additional care support at present. We will continue to keep in regular contact with the family and we are working with the family and other agencies to resolve this problem as soon as possible.”
Meanwhile, other charities backed up the claims. Colin Lang, chief executive of children’s bereavement charity Nelson’s Journey, said they have seen a significant increase in referrals to them.
The charity was founded in 2006, seeing about 50 youngsters sent to them. But now the forecast for the end of 2014 could reach as high as 640.
And Hilary MacDonald, chief cxecutive of Age UK Norfolk said her charity felt the same.
“Increasing numbers of people are turning to charities for help; at the same time, we are experiencing reduced income in the current economic climate,” she said.
Mrs Seligman, trustee and chairman of the appeal, who set up with the charity with the help of EDP readers, said today: “The cuts are impacting so severely now across the county.
“These are cuts the government has inflicted on local authorities who feel despair themselves because they are not able to help the individuals, so they refer them on to us.
“Carers are a humble group of people and make very few demands. Long term they deserve more support than they are getting.”
Over the next three years from April 2014, Norfolk County Council’s government grant is projected to go down by £91m.
Case study 2 - thanks for a much-needed break
A Great Yarmouth carer has praised the We Care Appeal for its role in giving her family a break. Laura Sanders, 33, has looked after 11-year-old daughter Meghan Spencer-Sanders who has ADHD since she was diagnosed.
In July she and her two daughters used a £350 grant from the charity to go to Haven seashore holiday park in Great Yarmouth.
She describes the difference that short trip made to her family:
“Although this location was not very far from home, it was so nice just to have a change of scenery and to know that my ADHD child had plenty of activities to keep her occupied.
“Meghan gets very bored very easily and this can result in her becoming angry and violent towards myself and her sisters, so she has to be constantly entertained, which the park offered perfectly. She was able to take part in lots of sporting activities such as swimming, water walkerz, archery, fencing, and much more.
“This relieved the pressure for me and gave me a couple of days to relax without worrying too much about housework, cooking or even just the daily ups and downs I face every day with Meghan at home.
“Meghan participated in everything and really enjoyed herself and it meant her sister Caitlyn was also able to enjoy herself, run free, do her own activities and spend some well needed quality time with mum which she wouldn’t usually get at home.
“We are so very grateful for this opportunity, for something that may seem so small and unimportant has made the world of difference to us as a family and I really want to thank you for that.”
And Harold Bodmer, director of community Services at Norfolk County Council, agreed that there is a growing pressure on adult social care budgets as a result of central government funding reductions to local authorities.
“Across the UK, this will, I’m certain, be having a knock-on effect on charities and the voluntary sector and we are working together with these organisations in Norfolk to deal with these new circumstances,” he said.
There are about 96,000 unpaid carers in Norfolk, among them are 5,000 young carers, who dedicate much of their lives to relatives or friends in need.
UK-wide, the economic value of the contribution made by carers is £119bn per year.
By the end of 2014, the We Care Appeal expects to help around 200 people, a 38pc increase on previous years.
A £35,000 pot helps provide practical items to carers who wouldn’t normally able to afford them.
These may include a washing machine, laptop, a short break away to rejuvenate or a power pack to help push a wheelchair, all which help make a carer’s already challenging life brighter and easier.
But Mrs Seligman said because the NHS and social care departments are under increasing pressure, the charity’s board of trustees are now having to be more strict when looking at applications.
They have even had to ask other agencies, who would usually happily refer people on to the charity for help, to apply only for “critical” items for the carer.
And Mrs Seligman warned of the devastating impact for the often desperate individuals who have asked for help.
“For people who need us, cuts mean they won’t be able to get help anywhere,” she said.
“And it feels dreadful having to turn them down, it’s heartbreaking when you think what we were set up to do.”
Care Minister Norman Lamb insisted that NHS budgets have not been cut. But he did admit local authorities have been forced to make changes to their spending.
“Local government support from central government has been reduced,” he said. “But there is no political party out there suggesting any other option or finding a way of getting spending under control.”
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