Plenty of positives for Age UK Norfolk despite “extremely tough year”

Silvia Stefanoni, the interim chief executive officer of HelpAge International, speaks at the Age UK

Silvia Stefanoni, the interim chief executive officer of HelpAge International, speaks at the Age UK Norfolk AGM in Mattishall. - Credit: Submitted - September 2013

The increasing funding demands for services for older people have been made clear by the trustees of Age UK Norfolk - alongside proof that plenty of good work is already being carried out.

The annual general meeting of Age UK Norfolk was held in Mattishall yesterday and saw the charity's trustees pull few punches in their predictions for a tough future.

Chief executive Hilary MacDonald said: 'It's been an extremely tough year for us, along, I'm sure, with other voluntary sector partners in the region who I'm sure have also been through a really quite tough period.

'This year, despite unprecedented challenges, the economic climate and cuts to services, we have managed once again to meet the increased demand for our services and, due to prudent management of our services, our income was greater than our expenditure.

'Year on year we have increased demand for our services and year on year our staff meet that demand.'

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The positive message was delivered at the South Green Park Enterprise Centre in Mattishall, near Dereham, with various representatives of the Norfolk Council on Ageing attending and seeing their membership confirmed for the 2013/14 year.

Age UK Norfolk's annual report was distributed at the AGM, including a financial summary for the year which showed that income had increased by over £200,000 to a total of £3,096,693, alongside an expenditure of £2,950,174.

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Mrs MacDonald pointed to a number of examples of increased demand for the charity, including 8,030 people calling the service's telephone advice line, an increase of 5pc from 2011/12.

She also explained that £5bn in benefits goes unclaimed in the UK every year but an increase in home visits from Age UK Norfolk staff and volunteers brought an increase of £2,141,072 for older people in Norfolk during 2012/13.

Mrs MacDonald said: 'That is a 25pc increase on last year and considering the challenging economic environment, I'm very, very proud to report that to you.'

Another service which has proved particularly successful, on a national scale, is the charity's Power of Attorney service.

The service assisted 184 people with the completion of 366 Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) applications, an increase of 39pc, with the Office of the Public Guardian informing Age UK Norfolk that its volunteer LPA coordinator had completed more LPAs than anyone else in the country.

Mrs MacDonald said: 'I'm always struck by the huge impact of what we do and reading the stories and case studies of what we do is a really humbling experience and really brings home the hard work of our staff and volunteers.'

Mrs MacDonald also talked about 'scaled-back management' allowing the organisation to invest in its services, saying: 'No member of staff in this charity receives a six-figure salary, or anywhere near that.'

She continued: 'Ensuring future sustainability was a major focus and, like so many, putting plans in place for ourselves meant having to take many difficult decisions.

'Among them was the very difficult decision to close the Methwold Community Support Centre, that was for so long a stalwart service.

Dr Peter Forster, chair of Age UK Norfolk, paid tribute to two former trustees of the organisation who passed away in the last year, praising the hard work of former chairman Alan MacKim and former vice-chair Muriel Yarnall.

He also spoke of the funding challenges facing the organisation, ahead of Norfolk County Council having to make £189m of saving between 2014 and 2017, which is set to lead to further funding cuts around the county.

Dr Forster said: 'Norfolk County Council contributes £1.6m to us, that's 52pc of our income which comes from Norfolk County Council. That shows the link between the two of us.

'Last year that percentage was 60pc so the situation has improved but there is still a long way to go.'

Dr Forster said the charity is hoping to open its first retails shop in the county in the coming year, which could lead to more in future.

The AGM also saw the unopposed re-election of Emily Millington-Smith as president, continuing a stint of more than 30 years with the charity which in 2011 saw Mrs Millington-Smith made an MBE for services to older people and carers in East Anglia.

The end of the meeting then had an international flavour, as Silvia Stefanoni, the Italian interim chief executive officer of HelpAge International, delivered a presentation entitled 'The Global Ageing century: challenges and opportunities'.

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