Age Concern centre may be forced to close

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AN information centre for the elderly may close after its funding was cut.

The Age Concern Information and Resource Centre, in Market Parade, Havant, has helped thousands of people over the past 15 years with advice on legal, financial and mobility matters.

But the £92,000-a-year contract with Hampshire County Council ends on June 24 and instead Age Concern Hampshire will be given an annual grant of £25,000.

One part-time member of staff has already been made redundant and Chris Perry, the charity’s director said: ‘It has been a flagship, highly-regarded service throughout Hampshire for 15 years and seemed to tick all the boxes.

‘We are having difficulty understanding their decision when so much good work is done.

‘We can probably only keep going until the end of the year, calling upon our reserves.

‘We’re doing everything we possibly can to stay open.’

Staff and volunteers at the centre provide a drop-in service giving advice on benefits, housing, personal care services, health, support services for carers, leisure activities and education.

There are two other resource and information centres in Winchester and Basingstoke but they are funded through grants and do not offer anywhere near the same amount of services.

A solicitor offers a regular consultation with clients, giving free legal advice.

And the Department for Work and Pensions also holds advice workshops.

Pete Walden is chairman of the influential Havant 50 Plus Forum which is based at the centre and uses the services.

He said: ‘We’re going to fight this. It’s shameful that they are withdrawing funding. It’s a vital service.’

Councillor Felicity Hindson, who is responsible for adult social care, at the county council, said the charity was warned a year ago the contract would end in June. She said: ‘Hampshire County Council’s adult services department needs to save £24m in 2011/12, half of the total council’s planned savings of £55m in 2011/12. In these financially challenging times we must ensure that we target our limited resources to ensure we are providing services that are not only high in quality and safe, but are value for money.’