Fears redesign for Norfolk’s services for carers leaves future of small grants scheme in doubt

Grassroots carers' groups across Norfolk fear the future of a small grants scheme which is a lifeline for them and the people they look after has been thrown into doubt.

The small grants, of �300 for existing carers' groups or �500 for new groups, are normally dished out as part of a �30,000 annual pot given by Norfolk County Council to the Norfolk and District Carers' Forum.

However, the council has this year halved the pot to �15,000 by only funding the scheme for six months, instead of a full year, while it undertakes a redesign of services for carers.

David Todd, of Norwich and District Carers Forum, said: 'We just feel very disappointed that the county council has been very short-sighted because last year 17,888 carers received a break from their caring due to the small grants money.

'They are redesigning the service but in doing so they also use that as an excuse to force through their cuts.

'They have spoken for months and months about redesigning services for carers but we have no details of what those services will look like and they are forcing us and other organisations to enter in to the tendering process and we just don't know what's going on.

'They have kept us completely in the dark.

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'Of all of the services they could have extended, they could have extended the small grants.'

Catherine Underwood, the council's director of commissioning for community health and care, said: 'Norfolk County Council works with thousands of unpaid carers. We understand and value the important role they play in helping people to be independent and healthy, and remain living in their homes. We are working with carers and people who support them to plan how we do this in the future.

'While we continue to work with carers to reshape the service so it is fit for their purpose, we have extended key carers' services, including the funding we offer to Norwich and District Carers Forum, for another six months to September 31. To be clear, we have allocated funding to Norwich and District Carers Forum for six months, not 12.

'This extension in funding from March to this September means we can continue to work closely with carers, partners and providers to help shape new services for carers which help us make the very best of the funding that's available.'

Existing carers' group have now been told they will only be able to apply for �150.

Les Eve, who has been running Costessey Carers Support Group for the past decade, said: 'Lots of groups do rely on this and to get it taken away could leave smaller groups struggling.

'To them it is a large piece of money.

'We are well established and have a bit of money behind us, but a lot of groups don't and it will mean that we all have to find other ways of raising the money.'

Mr Eve, who has been a carer for his wife for 27 years, said going to the groups was a lifeline for many carers and helped them to carry on with caring.

Wendy Maxwell, the Hellesdon woman who set up the Chill4Us carers' website, said: 'It is the only grant we get, but it costs us �1,000 to keep the website going. We struggle to get funding because the website helps anyone across the country.'

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