Funding Cuts Hit Vulnerable Merton Residents

Volunteer scheme suffers grant axe

Campaigners are fighting a council decision to cut funding for a team of volunteers who help vulnerable residents in Merton.

Funding has been stopped for the Help Service run by the Volunteer Centre Merton (VCM), which recruits and manages volunteers to support and befriend isolated older people.

Last year the centre, in London Road, Mitcham, received around £117,000 from the council, including notional rent and £35,000 from its Adult Social Care grant pot.

From that £35,000, VCM received £20,460 for the Help Service.

This year it applied to continue the Help Service, with slightly more grant funding. It also put in bids for two other projects:

  • Recruiting and placing volunteers to help meet health and social care needs for older people with disabilities and to support more people over 50 to volunteer. This was an expansion of an existing service to deliver more and better outcomes with more grant funding.
  • A support service to enable people with mental health problems, and or physical, sensory and learning disabilities to volunteer in the local community. This was an existing service to deliver better outcomes with more grant funding.

Merton Borough Council decided to improve and support the expansion and effectiveness of the two latter projects, which it saw as core business areas.

Councillor Mark Betteridge, Merton Council deputy leader said: "Along with the rest of the country, Merton's funding grants are limited and we regret that we are not able to fund all projects that we would like to. We have never been able to lend support to every organisation or project, and the financial pressures we are all facing will mean that we will have to make difficult decisions as we review all areas of expenditure.

"We will continue to work very closely with VCM and will look at all the funding and support on offer so that the residents get the extra services they need."

A VCM spokeman said: "Merton Council’s decision to stop funding this service means isolated and housebound elderly residents no longer have a borough-wide volunteer befriending service, or practical support from volunteer drivers and gardeners.

"Our service users and volunteers have led protests against this decision and a campaign has gained momentum. We call on organisations to support efforts to maintain this vital service."

October 1, 2010