Shake-up of Norfolk charity’s care for the elderly

A leading Norfolk charity is planning a wholesale shake-up in the way it delivers services across the county to meet the twin challenges of coping with cuts in funding while giving older people more say in their own lives.

Age UK Norfolk is to embark on a far-reaching project which will see advice, support and services brought under one roof in communities across the county, with a dedicated local phone number which can put people straight through to the help they need.

Over the next three years the charity wants to restructure services and create community hubs based on its four centres across the county where people can receive advice and support and access a range of services from day centres - but it needs to find �675,000 over the next three years to enable the project to be rolled out.

It also looking to set up a new centre in the Dereham area, and find ways of providing more services in people's homes, particularly in rural areas.

And it wants to link up with other community groups and parish councils to see if they can work together to offer luncheon clubs, meals-on-wheels, help with shopping or putting on social events.

The move comes as the charity launches a 'Campaign for Later Life' aimed at celebrating the contribution older people make in the community.

Hilary Macdonald, chief executive of Age UK Norfolk said the three-year programme, known as 'Project Transform' would help the organisation meet the needs of older people at a time when, firstly, funding is being cut, and, secondly, the demand for services tailored to individual needs is rising as part of the government's personalisation agenda.

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'We have got a changing environment, and what we are doing is transforming the way we are helping and supporting older people,' she said. 'This isn't giving people what we think they want, it's about giving people what they do want, in a very different way.

'It's about developing that network of support and increasing the range of services through local communities telling us what they want and helping us to develop it.

'This isn't about a demographic timebomb, and it isn't negative,' she added. 'We are not looking at it in a negative way at all, why would we want to?

'We have got fantastic resources in Norfolk and it's something we should shout about.'

But key to the speed at what the changes can be rolled out is the need to secure �675,000 over the next three years, and the charity is keen to work with businesses, and individuals to attract funds.

'Yes it brings challenges, but together with partners in the community and older people themselves we can hopefully meet these challenges,' Mrs Macdonald said. 'We've got hard work and more campaigning to do, but we want to shout about our services.

'This isn't about a loss of funding for our organisation. It's about the loss of funding for social care - it goes far wider than the services we provide. That's where Project Transform comes in. It aims to provide a network to grow and develop support for people across the county and developing links with other providers and communities.'

Meanwhile, with more of us living longer, Mrs Macdonald said the aim of the Celebrating Later Life campaign was to find out about the contributions people are making, both young and old, and encourage more people to volunteer.

'We are really excited about it and we are hoping we can attract a lot of interest and support,' she said. 'All the indications are that people are really keen to support this. The time is right. We have the demographics in Norfolk which make it very clear that we have got a fantastic resource in our elderly population.

Alison Bertram, patron of the later life campaign, said she was delighted to be taking part and urged as many people as possible to get involved.

'I'm really looking forward to meeting and working alongside people in the Norfolk community to celebrate age and make a real difference to the lives of older people,' she said.