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Elderly charity forced to sell minibuses after council cuts

By Luke Bartlett | Stourbridge | News | Published:

A charity which had its funding cut is now having to sell off four minibuses to keep operations running.

The Mary Stevens Day Centre in Stourbridge, which closed last Friday having housed Age Concern for two decades

Age Concern chose to leave the Mary Stevens Day Centre in Stourbridge after 100 per cent of its service level agreement funding from Dudley Council was removed back in April.

In a bid to raise enough cash to keep operations running smoothly the charity has had to make eight staff cuts and put the minibuses up for sale after losing more than £21,000 a year.

The minibuses were used to transport elderly service users to and from the centre and for day trips.

Chief Officer Dionne Legge, aged 45, said “We’re as close to family as they get, if they don’t see us they don’t see anyone.

“We have been in this building for 20-plus years, it was like a second home. It’s stopped us being able to offer a day care service in Stourbridge. It’s quite sad because I believe we’re all doing such good work. Over the years the council have been very supportive and very kind.

“I don’t think they have had much fun in telling us all we have lost our funding, but unfortunately there’s repercussions.

“There were so many people out there that were being helped at a reasonable cost and now, unfortunately, we’re having to skin ourselves back to the bone. Who’s going to look after these people?”

The centre, which had more than 70 members, closed its doors last Friday leaving many without anywhere to attend.

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Members have found the still open Age Concern-operated Green Lane day centre in Halesowen too far to reach, with their Elton Centre, an activity centre in Stourbridge, not being a suitable as a day care venue.

The minibuses up for sale include a 2007 Mercedes Sprinter, a 2006 Mercedes Vario, a 2008 Mercedes Sprinter, and a 2009 Iveco Daily.

Whitehouse Cancer Support, who have also been affected by the cuts, have also been forced to make vital changes to staff and operations.

Manager Caroline Webb, 54, said: “We did have our funding cut from the local authorities.

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“We have had to change our ways of doing things, we wanted to expand further and at a quicker pace but obviously we have had to concentrate more on fundraising.

"We didn’t get as much as Age UK or Age Concern but we weren’t totally reliant on it, though it did put a big dent in the budget.

"The council themselves have had to make cuts in practically every department, the cuts have come down from central Government.

“In all fairness to them its been beyond their control, that’s just the way it went.

“It’s had to change the way the charities think about things, but there’s no blame game. We did make one position redundant, we had to scale down in areas.

“The public for us have been very generous and they have continued to support us which is great.”

Councillor Nicolas Barlow, cabinet member for adult social care, said: “Council representatives met with Dionne Legge the Chief Officer for Age Concern last week to discuss accommodation issues at Mary Stevens Park.

“The council has made an offer to extend the rent free period at Mary Stevens until February 1 when charging would have to apply.

"Age Concern have considered the offer but acknowledge more work is required on their part to consider their existing estate and find an alternative site with fewer access issues. Dudley CVS are working with Age Concern to consider their options and next steps.

“We very much value all the work done by the voluntary sector, including Age Concern, and recognise them as a key partner for the local authority in supporting us to deliver services differently in the future.”

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