Funding to be pulled from Swindon advice service
A LIFELINE to some of Swindon’s most vulnerable people is under threat.
Swindon Council plans to withdraw funds to the Living Options charity.
Since 1982 the organisation, run by disability charity Scope, has provided one-to-one advice, drop-in support and social and peer support for disabled people in Swindon.
But following a review of services, the council has decided to pull funding to the project from January 7, cutting one of the links Swindon’s disabled people have to the community .
Tony Collins, 51, of Pinehurst, has diabetes and an amputated left leg and has suffered from three strokes.
He said: “I probably wouldn’t bother getting up and putting my leg on to leave the house if Living Options wasn’t here.
“They help me fill in forms and things for the council. I feel I can go there and talk about anything.
“If I wasn’t coming to somewhere like that I don’t think I would leave the house. I would just stay at home on my own.”
The service, which supports more than 60 people and is based in the Buckhurst Park Community Centre, Walcot, is already run almost entirely by volunteers and service users, with three members of staff from Scope acting as an anchor to the project.
Clare Stow, 51, of Upper Stratton, suffers chronic fatigue and fibromyagia endometriosis, and has been a volunteer at Living Options for six months.
“There isn’t anything out there that’s like us,” she said.
“Sometimes you have to tease what’s wrong out of people, and sometimes if we haven’t seen people in a while we give them a call to make sure that they are OK.
“You don’t get that at the Citizens’ Advice Bureau. We look out for each other here.
“The doctors and the NHS will be having a lot more customers feeling isolated and depressed.”
Over the next four months Living Options will be speaking to every service user to find alternative support.
Jo Pearce, Scope’s area manager, said: “We’re sad to confirm the council has decided to stop funding Living Options.
“Without funding we are going to have to end the one- to-one and drop-in support and advice service.
“But we’ll do our best to support people to speak to the council about getting similar support elsewhere.
“We’re doing everything we can to keep elements of the service going.
“We’re going to train up the people who use the lifestyles project, and provide some funding, so that they run it independently.
“This will be a real challenge, but with the right support we’re sure they can make a success of it.
“It’s going to be tough for both staff and the people who use the service.
“Meanwhile we’re looking to find volunteers who can keep the art group going at the community centre.”
The service is no longer receiving referrals from the council but existing users will be able to use the service until January next year.
A Swindon Council spokesman said: “We made the decision to stop the funding for Scope following a consultation carried out with voluntary and community providers and users of care services.
“We have reviewed services with the aim of promoting community services and avoiding the duplication of others.
“The drop-in support and information service provided by Swindon Living Options is offered by other organisations within Swindon.
“We are working with staff in Scope and the Council’s locality teams to help individual service users find alternative support should they need it.”
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