Funding small organisations is well worth the cost

COMMENT: People need to have viable alternative to driving

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When volunteers gathered at the Age Concern Information and Advice Centre in Havant, they were expecting bad news.

After funding had been withdrawn as a cost-cutting measure by Hampshire County Council, they knew it meant the threat of closure hung over the centre.

But it was smiles all round rather than tears when they heard from Yvette Christian, assistant director at Age Concern Hampshire, that a grant application to the government had been successful and that the service would continue.

After an unsettling year, an 11th hour rescue had come in the form of £70,000 awarded from the £16m Advice Services Fund set up to support organisations hit by savings being made in public sector spending.

We are just as delighted as the volunteers that the centre will now stay open for at least another 12 months.

It provides a hugely valuable one-stop shop for the elderly, offering free information and mobility aids that help to keep many pensioners independent in their own homes.

The centre fields more than 6,000 inquiries a year and is the only place to which many elderly people feel they can turn.

This story has a happy ending, in that the centre has not had to shut its doors to all those who rely on it for assistance (although fund raising is vital to keep it going in future).

But it does highlight the problems that can be caused by local authorities who find budgets are squeezed and have to make tough decisions about funding small organisations that do so much valuable work in the community.

We appreciate times are tough, but we urge councils to think very carefully before risking the survival of services such as the Age Concern Information and Advice Centre. Because to do so may actually cost much more in the long run.

Without its help, fewer people would be able to stay in their own homes in later life, meaning a greater need for care provision – and a much bigger strain on the public purse.