Care home firm axes befriending scheme costing £2,500 per year

Students from Wymomdham High School receive their certificates for taking part in a befriending sche

Students from Wymomdham High School receive their certificates for taking part in a befriending scheme at Windmill House in Wymondham. The students have learned to interact and communicate with older people in particular with dementia.Byline: Sonya DuncanCopyright: Archant 2017 - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A Norfolk sixth form has expressed its sadness after a national company axed a befriending scheme at a local care home due to 'budget constraints'.

Runwood Homes, which owns Windmill House on Browick Road, Wymondham, announced last week that it would cut funding for weekly visits by Wymondham High students, organised through the YOPEY (young person of the year) scheme, because it did not have room in its budget to pay the £2,500 annual running cost.

In a letter to YOPEY founder Tony Gearing, its chief financial officer wrote: "Due to budget constraints I must inform you Runwood can no longer financially support you.

"On behalf of myself and the Board of Directors we wish YOPEY all the very best for the future and we would like to thank you for everything you have done to support Runwood but especially the students on your programmes."

Mr Gearing said he feared the company was making the decision "with pound note goggles" on and pointed to the more than £20 million paid out to directors in the financial year ending September 2018.

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The company declined to comment on the email.

He added that he believed cutting the scheme was an oversight with regard to the home's reputation, following Windmill House's most recent inspection.

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In January the home was awarded an outstanding by inspectors from the Care Quality Commission, which included praise for the YOPEY scheme in its report, writing: "At the time of inspection, they had a scheme where young people came into the home… This helped to reduce people's isolation and was particularly good for people who did not like big group activities."

A spokesman for Runwood Homes said the company would continue to support the ethos of the YOPEY scheme but that it was working on developing "a number of similar initiatives to further enhance inter-generational community engagement and befriending at a meaningful level".

They added: "As an organisation we support a number of recognised charities through local home-level fundraising initiatives and will continue to offer such support to those who need it most."

But Mr Gearing raised concerns about the level and rigour of training provided via the home's own version of the scheme.

He said: "YOPEY provides extensive training to its students about how to interact with residents who have dementia, as well as crucial safeguarding support. Anything less than we offer is not sufficient to support the young people, or the residents involved."

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