Sheringham stroke group left to struggle on after funding for Stroke Association ends

A long-established support group for stroke victims in north Norfolk is preparing to battle for survival when its funding ends in a few weeks' time.

The Sheringham Communications Support Group has been a valued weekly social meeting place for more than 15 years.

But a complex and time-limited package of funding, which covers all-important transport costs for users and helps pay for a professional to oversee meetings, runs out at the end of March.

The cash crisis will mean stroke victims attending the Sheringham meetings from places including North Walsham, Aylsham, Overstrand and Cromer will either have to pay their own transport costs and run the club themselves with the help of volunteers, or close it down.

John Lindsay and Alan Burrows, both 79, say they could not afford to pay the �35 round-trip cost of their weekly shared taxi which ferries them between meetings at Sheringham Methodist Church and their homes in North Walsham.

Mr Lindsay has been attending the club since he had a stroke in 1997. 'It gives me comradeship. There is nothing like it round North Walsham,' he said.

Mr Burrows added: 'Without stroke clubs you will have people sitting at home alone, deteriorating and getting depressed.

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Volunteer Sophie Graveling said the group helped users regain vital self-confidence by providing somewhere relaxed where they could talk and play games like Scrabble, cards and staging quizzes which helped sharpen people's minds.

Ms Graveling hopes to help members run the club after funding ends and she appealed for more people who had suffered strokes, of any age, to join them.

Neil Chapman, assistant regional manager with the Stroke Association, said they had used about �37,000 pa of a larger grant package to run the group.

The association was exploring other possible sources of funding and meanwhile, they were helping the group prepare to run itself.

A spokesman for the NHS said that the eastern region branch of the Stroke Association had received funding for a communication support service and a long term support service for central Norfolk.

The bulk of the money had been provided by Norfolk adult social services, using a two-year grant from the Department of Health which was about to end. Further funding had been provided by NHS Norfolk and Waveney.

Ian Ayres, deputy chief executive of NHS Norfolk and Waveney, said the loss of the time-limited money meant they did not have enough to sustain the Stroke Association's excellent service.

In recent years the NHS and adult social services had put in place enhanced stroke services which supported patients, including speech and language therapy and re-ablement.

Catherine Underwood, director of integrated commissioning for both NHS Norfolk and Waveney, and Norfolk County Council added: 'We are currently working in partnership to develop re-ablement services in Norfolk which includes services to people who have had a stroke who have finished their rehabilitation.

'We shall shortly be tendering contracts for information, advice and advocacy services to meet a wide range of needs, including those of people who have had a stroke. '

? For more information about the support group, ring 07833 247 108.

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