‘Vital’ scheme that tackles loneliness under threat after funding withdrawn

SVS  volunteers pictured in the kitchen at Sherburn Methodist Church. Picture by Simon Hulme
SVS volunteers pictured in the kitchen at Sherburn Methodist Church. Picture by Simon Hulme
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A “VITAL” resource that helps hundreds of isolated older people keep in touch with their communities could face closure after it was forced to dip into its reserves to fill a funding black hole running into thousands of pounds.

Sherburn Visiting Scheme Supporting Seniors (SVS) lost its North Yorkshire County Council funding last autumn, and has since had to rely on its financial reserves in order to keep up the services it provides to almost 400 older people.

Trustees say its services, which have been running in villages in North Yorkshire for 30 years and include twice weekly Meals on Wheels, a weekly hot lunch, shopping buses, transport to medical appointments, social afternoons, day trips and a memory cafe for people with dementia, are now at risk.

In total, it costs about £20,000 a year to fund the services – which are provided by 70 volunteers – and the community minibus it uses for shopping trips and days out. SVS has now launched a fundraising appeal to prevent cutting services or withdrawing them all together after having to use £17,000 of its financial reserves.

“We have to find a way of sustaining these valued services for the benefit of older and lonely people, not only in Sherburn but also in the surrounding villages,” said Ted Bellamy, who chairs the Trustee-run charity.

“We’re already having to dip into our financial reserves to keep going. If we’re unable to find around £20,000 every year from generous businesses or individuals we will face having to cut services or, at worse, close down altogether.

“Our caring and affordable services are vital in helping to combat loneliness and isolation among seniors and people suffering from memory loss in Sherburn and the villages. It would be shocking if those who depend on our services have to lose them completely.

“In addition to new funding we also urgently need more volunteers, especially drivers, whose running costs are reimbursed.”

North Yorkshire County Council said it had awarded new contracts to charities across the region working to “help people stay well and live independently in their own homes for as long as possible” in October 2018, including Age UK Selby.

Voluntary and community groups were invited to apply to the procurement process, of which a “small number of existing providers” of prevention services were not successful.

Dale Owens, the assistant director for care and support, said: “We worked with residents and partners to create contracts which would build upon the approaches already developed through our Stronger Communities, Living Well and Public Health programmes.

“A major focus was to deliver services on a local level which contributed to reducing loneliness and isolation and also to protect overall budgets on prevention and wellbeing. The aim was also to ensure that all areas of the county were funded equitably in relation to the needs of the area.

“Through procurement we opened up the opportunity for the voluntary and community sector to bid for individual contracts. Following the procurement process a small number of existing providers of prevention services were not successful in winning.

“A significant amount of support has been subsequently offered to those providers by our adult social care and Stronger Communities commissioning teams to try and reduce the impact on these small organisations affected by the procurement process.”

SVS provides services across Sherburn, Barkston Ash, Biggin, Burton Salmon and Church Fenton as well as Little Fenton, Fairburn, Hillam, Lumby, Monk Fryston, Newthorpe, Saxton and South Milford. Anyone wishing to use an SVS service, become a volunteer, or help with the fundraising campaign, can call 01977 681828 or email info@sherburnvisitingscheme.co.uk

THE YORKSHIRE Post launched its award-winning campaign to tackle the blight of loneliness five years ago this month.

Since the launch of the award-winning Loneliness: The Hidden Epidemic initiative, the body of evidence of the health effects of a lack of social connections has continued to grow.

Medical research has revealed that loneliness increases the likelihood of mortality by 26 per cent, and can increase the risk of developing heart disease and stroke.

Since the launch of the campaign, the region’s councils are now spending 55 per cent more on initiatives tackling loneliness.

Spending by 14 authorities in Yorkshire which responded to a Freedom of Information request has risen by almost £3.5m during the past five years, with more than £9.8m being spent in 2018/19.