Mow and Grow fights for survival as council drops Norwich gardening service
PUBLISHED: 12:15 13 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:40 13 September 2019
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
The end of a contract for a service which helped hundreds of people in Norwich keep their gardens tidy has left bosses at the social enterprise behind it fighting for the organisation's survival.
And Mow and Grow says people who used the gardening service have been left distressed and in tears by its end.
For more than a decade, Norwich City Council had a contract with the Bowthorpe Community Hub- based social enterprise to maintain gardens for tenants - a key part of tenancy agreements.
But the council decided not to re-tender, leaving the not-for-profit organisation £50,000 worse off.
Mow and Grow is appealing for people to help it survive by using its gardening services. It is also expanding its wellbeing service, which includes popular sessions for army veterans.
Chief executive Alex Cosgrove is disappointed at the way the contract ended.
She said the council sent tenants letters - just weeks before the service stopped -saying universal credit changes meant it had to end, yet some were not on that benefit.
She said: "The team is deeply disappointed by the mismanagement of the end of our gardening contract. We offered to facilitate the communication and handover process six months in advance, however the council rejected this in favour of a last-minute rush.
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"As a result of this we found ourselves having to deal with calls from worried residents, some of whom were clearly in distress."
She also questioned whether there were implications for the council's responsibility to tenants under the Care Act, although the council said the service was not related to the Care Act.
Mrs Cosgrove said: "The loss of income has impacted not only our garden services, but our mental health and wellbeing activities at a crucial time when these services are most needed.
"Moving forward. we are opening a Grow Hub Men's Shed on October 15 and are keen to generate new garden contracts, ongoing and ad hoc work, without which we will not survive the winter."
"Individuals and businesses can help us to continue helping others by using our gardening services, holding a teambuilding day at the Hub, and donating their time, materials or much needed funds towards our projects."
A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council said: "This service is not covered by Universal Credit (UC) and, as all 215 of our residents who were using the service are now either on UC or will transition in future; we made the decision not to renew the contract when it expired.
"We spoke to Mow and Grow in advance and offered to promote their service to residents who may wish to use it.
"Our housing officers will continue to work with any resident with issues around maintaining their homes, signposting them to appropriate support where possible."
- Mow and Grow can be contacted on 01603 740107.