Elderly to be given a chance to develop care services in Norfolk

Charity officials say they will turn older people from bystanders into decision-makers when it comes to developing care plans across Norfolk.

Age UK Norfolk started work on Project Transform after receiving a �300,000 gift from an anonymous donor.

The three-year programme, which also requires a similar level of public donations, aims to give the elderly more influence in what services the independent charity provides across the county.

It is hoped community hubs will be created at the Denny Centre in Diss, Herondale in Acle, Grays Fair Court in New Costessey and the Methwold Centre in Methwold.

Age UK Norfolk says it wants these centres to provide older people with information, advice and a chance to start activities they want in their communities.

Kate Rudkin, head of development and operations, said the aim was to develop more personal services based on what people wanted, rather than attempting to deliver the same activity for everybody.

Mrs Rudkin said: 'What we are doing is asking and listening to older people as they are the experts. We need to understand what affects their lives, what they enjoy and what would make their life easier or what worries them and what part do local services play in their lives. It's bringing that all together.

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'That will help us understand what supports people in later life. If people in Norfolk are saying they haven't got anything in their area, then we want to work with these communities.'

Advisory groups are also being established at the four proposed community hubs, to give people who use each site and community leaders a chance to design the services provided.

Eamon McGrath, Age UK Norfolk community development manager, said people who did not use the charity's services were also being involved in an attempt to investigate as many ideas as possible.

He said: 'At the first advisory group there was a comment from someone who said 'it's good to be listened to and know what we say matters'. Too often in the past, in traditional models, it has been a case of 'we know best'.

'Now it's about turning the whole thing on its head. They are the paying customer and they say what they want from us. Too often, the generation we are talking about has not had that input.'

The government wants control of care cash to be taken away from local authorities and given to people, in the form of personal budgets.

This is expected to ensure charities, private companies and the public sector provide what people want.

Shaun Wilson-Gotobed, the lead on Project Transform, said: 'The people are the key decision-makers for us in the way we develop services.'

Age UK Norfolk is calling on Norfolk County Council to think again about �11 million of proposed cuts to preventative care services, designed to spot the early signs of illnesses, in the next two years.

It is feared these short-term cash savings will make it more likely people will suffer from more serious conditions, which will result in bigger care bills for the taxpayer.

The Age UK Norfolk and Age UK Norwich Cut Cake Not Care campaign, backed by the EDP, wants to make sure councillors are aware of the impact their decisions could have across the county.

People are being urged to attend tomorrow's Cut Cake Not Care launch at Tesco, Harford Bridges, Ipswich Road, Norwich.

Shoppers are invited to show their support by coming along to the stand to sign a postcard and enjoy a slice of cake or a mince pie, anytime from 9am to 6pm.

Norfolk County Council says it is developing several ideas to help improve care for older people, including creating a �1.5 million preventative fund.

Officials say this will allow individuals or groups to bid for money to help meet their needs.

Councillor David Harwood, cabinet member for adult and community services, said: 'We are looking for people to come forward with the initial ideas that we might be able to expand or use in the future, which will prevent people from being unable to stay at home and end up in hospital or go into long-term care.'

The council added it is increasing spending on care budgets by �27 million in the next three years.

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