Carers coming to terms with loss

ANGI KENNEDY Carers across Norfolk are struggling to come to terms with the news that the unique fund set up to support them is facing a drastic cut in the grants it can give out each year.

ANGI KENNEDY

Carers across Norfolk are struggling to come to terms with the news that the unique fund set up to support them is facing a drastic cut in the grants it can give out each year.

As the full impact began to sink in of the Big Lottery decision to reject the Norfolk Millennium Trust for Carers' £¼m bid, carers and their support agencies spoke of horror, disappointment and fears for the future.

The rejection came as a double whammy to the trust, as the £200,000 Community Fund cash it has been using to pay for practical help for carers such as wheelchair power packs, white goods and computers for the past four years is set to run out next month.

This money also covered the trust's running costs, £6,000 a year, which will now have to be met from the income generated by the £¾m raised by We Care and invested to provide a long-lasting fund for Norfolk carers. That means the trust will have just about £24,000 available to it to give out in grants instead of close on £75,000 a year.

That is devastating news for organisations like the Crossroads' Norfolk Young Carers Project. Its senior project officer, Christine Comacle Smith, said: “We are so dependant on the We Care Appeal, particularly during the school holidays. We can take the young carers out on individual or group outings whereas otherwise they could be isolated in their homes,” she explained. “We have been reliant on We Care for many years to be able to organise activities and respite care in terms of weekends away for young carers. Also, young carers have been relying on it to get computers and appliances like washing machines and dishwashers to relieve the burden of care.

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“We are extremely worried if we are not going to be able to access this fund in Norfolk. It is unique and it has always been so helpful to us.”

Defending the Big Lottery's Reaching Communities programme decision, Gerald Oppenheim, director of policy and partnerships, was adamant that the fund respected carers.

“We recognise very clearly the incredibly valuable work and sacrifice that carers make, and we have a long tradition of funding carers' work in England,” he said.

Mr Oppenheim promised a meeting with We Care chairman Paddy Seligman and other trustees to explain why the bid had failed and said it was welcome to reapply in the future.

“The Reaching Communities programme is very popular and is highly oversubscribed,” he explained. “Only one in seven or eight of applications is successful. Therefore, applications really need to be very sharp and clear about what they are going to achieve, the value for money they are going to deliver and what are the outcomes of that money being spent.

“The purpose of meeting would be to talk about how to sharpen that up and, if they choose to apply again, discuss how to raise their chances of success.”

Last night, Mrs Seligman said: “I appreciate the offer of a meeting, which I hope will in some way alleviate our concerns about rejection. I understand that there are many other very good causes applying to the Reaching Communities pot and we must not be too grasping.

“However when you have worked as long as we have with this particular cause and a very special group of people, it is very difficult to accept a line being drawn under what we had hoped would be a sympathetic source of funding for the next few years.”

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