Thousands show support for ‘vital’ Havant OAP advice shop

PETITION Havant MP David Willetts with, from left, Jackie Bampton, Pete Walden, Diane Burrell, David Burrell, Pat Goulden, Brandon Taylor and Cyril Giles, who are fighting to save the Age Concern centre which is set for closure.     Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (112362-1)
PETITION Havant MP David Willetts with, from left, Jackie Bampton, Pete Walden, Diane Burrell, David Burrell, Pat Goulden, Brandon Taylor and Cyril Giles, who are fighting to save the Age Concern centre which is set for closure. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (112362-1)
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THOUSANDS of people have signed a petition in a bid to save their local Age Concern Information Centre.

More than 2,000 people are backing the influential 50 Plus Forum calling on Havant MP David Willetts to help save the information centre, in Market Parade, Havant.

Staff and volunteers provide a drop-in advice service on benefits, housing, health, support for carers, and leisure activities.

A solicitor offers a regular consultation with clients, for free legal advice and the Department for Work and Pensions also holds advice workshops.

The information side of the centre was previously funded by a £92,000 grant from Hampshire County Council but that came to an end on Friday as a result of cutbacks.

It will now receive a £25,000 annual grant which will cover the rent and not much more.

Volunteers say it is vital that elderly people should be able to access services in the familiar surroundings of the shop.

Campaigner Jackie Bampton met Mr Willetts at his constituency office on Friday to hand over the petition.

She said: ‘It’s vital that it stays.

‘I’ve seen an elderly person go in there worried about a bill they’ve received.

‘The staff member sat them down, made them a cup of tea and sorted it out for them.

‘Otherwise the poor lady would have been worried sick about it and could have made herself ill.

‘Where else would you get that sort of caring service? The Age Concern Information Centre is totally unique.’

Mr Willetts has been in contact with the county council over the reduction in funding which the council has made clear it will not be reinstating.

The £92,000 was for the contract which Age Concern carried out to provide information to the older people of Havant.

The council is now centralising most of the services it offers in Havant in the revamped council offices – known as the Public Service Village which opens in the autumn and will include a Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

He said: ‘The information I have from the county council is that the Age Concern shop is an independent shop that’s funded independently but the council did have a contract for some information services to be delivered by Age Concern. The county council says they first warned 18 months ago the contract would be coming to an end with the new Public Service Village opening.’

A fundraising campaign has been launched to raise enough money to continue providing their own services.