Attleborough charity closes due to funding shortfall

After more than 30 years of supporting a south Norfolk community a local charity has been forced to shut its doors due to a lack of funding.

Attleborough Friends and Neighbours, which provides services including befriending, shopping, dog walking and a minibus rides for the elderly, will close on New Year's Eve.

Volunteers behind the charity said former funders are struggling to make donations in the downturn and claim more people are tending to give to larger, national organisations.

Brian Hammond, the charity's voluntary co-ordinator, said: 'Sadly because of the economic climate, funding given to all charities is at an all-time low and charitable trusts are in a difficult position deciding which of numerous charities to support.

'It does seem that charities like ours, helping elderly people to lead a better quality of life, do not come as high as we would like on some funders' priority lists.'

The charity, based at the Town Hall, has also struggled to attract new volunteers. It has about 20 regulars, but many are pensioners themselves.

Mr Hammond added: 'Volunteer numbers have been coming down and yet more people are becoming elderly, who need the volunteers. Young people do not seem to be volunteering. We've tried to attract younger people, but most volunteers are pensioners.'

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Attleborough Friends and Neighbours was formed in 1979 by Thea Byles, the former headmaster at Chapel Road School, and it became a registered charity in 1998. The following year it received lottery funding to hire Mr Hammond as a co-ordinator, which lasted six years.

When the funding ended, he stayed on as a volunteer and the charity was able to continue thanks to the generosity of other funders, including Lloyds TSB, the Garfield Weston Foundation, Attleborough Town Charities and individual donors, who paid for items including the minibus mileage and telephone bills.

But funding has become difficult to obtain and at a recent extraordinary general meeting called by the trustees it was decided to set a closure date.

However, Mr Hammond said many of the volunteers will continue with their work out of friendship and people can still call the charity's number, where an answerphone message will be left with the contact information for similar organisations such as Age UK.

He added: 'It's been very fulfilling. I never did it for the money – I did it for the job satisfaction. It's nice to know you're helping people because one day you may well need help yourself.'