Norfolk charity for disabled forced to cut jobs and services because of funding blow

James Kearns, chief executive of Norfolk charity BUILD.

James Kearns, chief executive of Norfolk charity BUILD. - Credit: Submitted

A Norfolk charity which provides a lifeline for young people and adults with disabilities is having to cut its services and axe staff because of funding cuts.

The BUILD charity says a triple whammy of cuts means it will have to make 'a significant reduction' in support for disabled people.

Since 1967, the charity, which has an offer has provided disabled people with services such as days out, short breaks and holidays and a range of learning and skills workshops, equipping people with vital skills such as cookery, money management and personal safety.

But charity bosses say they have no choice but to cut services, reduce its staff and increase the costs of services, partly because it will be £100,000 worse off because of a shake-up in the way Norfolk County Council funds social care.

Rather than directly funding services, the county council is switching to giving people eligible for care personal budgets, so they can pick what to spend the money on.

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But bosses at BUILD say almost half the people who use its services, including a weekly Wednesday club which meets at the United Reformed Church Rooms in Princes Street, are not eligible for a personal budget because their needs fall just below the 'critical and substantial need' threshold set by the council.

Up until now, those people have been supported through subsidies identified as addressing 'prevention' services, because it was recognised that helping them made financial sense as it stopped their level of need rising.

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And BUILD chief executive James Kearns said the loss of that money meant the charity, in planning for the future, had to make six employed staff redundant and review a further two posts, including his own, in the autumn.

He said there would have to be a significant reduction in the services the charity could offer, while the charity would have to charge more for the services it can still offer.

He said the charity's funds were being 'triply squeezed' through the re-distribution of funds to personal budgets, the

cuts in Norfolk County Council's funding for preventative services and a reduction in income from charitable trusts and community based donors because of the general economic conditions.

Mr Kearns said: 'We have planned for the impact of some of the changes, but the financial constraints hitting all at the same time have made it difficult, but also provided an opportunity to think clearly about our core services, our core beneficiaries and the business case for our way forward.

'Charities like BUILD are facing the same economic reality check that many businesses, have and continue to face, but without the ability to run credit lines, and where the impact of raising charges and reducing services has significant effect on people's health and well being.

'It is always difficult to lose long serving and good quality staff, but a consolidated service is more sustainable in the longer term, and we are continuing to explore partnership opportunities with colleagues in the public, private and voluntary sector.'

The charity, which has a turnover of about £120,000 a year currently employs eight paid staff and 120 unpaid volunteers. It provides services to about 200 people - about 100 activities every three months.

Shelagh Gurney, cabinet member for adult social services at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We value the work that Build does a great deal and we are very keen to continue helping them to find a way of providing services that works for them and the people they aim to support.

'Voluntary organisations have a vital role to play in the provision of care services in Norfolk, so as a council we want the sector to thrive.

'We and many of the organisations we work with have had to change the way we operate over the last two years, because we have had our funding from central government reduced but also because as a country we've been shifting towards giving people more choice and control over the care they receive.

'We know that these changes have been a lot for care providers to contend with however, so last year we set aside £2.5m from our budget to ensure we could make the right kind of support available to help them adjust.

'We have been supporting Build through these changes and have given them a transitional grant of £50,000 to help them adapt to the different funding arrangements and the introduction of personal budgets.'

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