Funding crunch for pilot Stalham-area care scheme

A crunch few weeks lie ahead for a pioneering project which could see new jobs created in and around Stalham and high-quality care for some of the area's must vulnerable residents.

Backers are hoping for firm pledges of cash by the end of February to launch a social enterprise called Happing Cares which uses the slogan 'Care for the community, by the community, in the community.'

It would see people living within the Happing Partnership area - Stalham and its 20 surrounding parishes - being trained and employed to care for local elderly and other vulnerable people in their homes.

The scheme would be the first independent one of its kind in the county and, if successful, would be rolled out across Norfolk, according to county councillor Paul Rice, whose South Smallburgh division includes 13 Happing parishes, and who is company secretary of regeneration group the Stalham with Happing Partnership, which is behind the project.

Partnership chiefs are seeking about �200,000-�250,000 start-up funding but envisage Happing Cares becoming self-financing after two-and-a-half years, said partnership co-ordinator Michael Castle.

That would also enable the threatened partnership to keep going, running other services such as the annual Happing Festival and artists' exhibition, producing a community and business directory, and local books.

Partnership chairman Eric Lindo said Happing Cares was primarily about helping local people - both by providing care so that they could live at home for longer, and through creating much-needed full and part-time jobs.

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The area had a high proportion of elderly people, and carers from other agencies were thinly spread, often trying to fit in Stalham clients with daily visits as far apart as Yarmouth, North Walsham and Cromer, said consultant Roy Gooch, who helped the partnership draw up a business plan for Happing Cares.

The scheme would mean clients either using their social services' budgets to buy their own care, or Happing Cares working under contract with the county council, or people using their own private means to fund their care.

Clients would benefit from getting to know a trained carer from their own community, who was better able to visit them at a convenient time, or times, during the day. And carers would not be faced with long journeys between jobs, and the strains that placed on the time they were able to spend with a client, said Mr Gooch.

Happing chiefs are due to meet North Norfolk District Council leader Helen Eales and chief executive Philip Burton this Wednesday, December 14, to discuss possible financial help for the project from the Conservative-led council's new Big Society Fund which will use an annual �700,000 from second homes council tax to support community projects.

Mr Rice said he had also gained the support of Norfolk County Council (NCC) leader Derrick Murphy for the scheme and hoped to hear positive news about NCC funding by the end of February.

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