A CASH strapped charity dedicated to supporting Colchester’s older residents could be on the verge of closing.

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Age UK Colchester has launched a public appeal asking people to donate what they can to keep the charity up and running.

The charity’s trustees say they have been unable to secure new funding following Government cuts in 2008 and is on the edge of its own “fiscal cliff.”

The financial difficulties began in 2006 when the charity could no longer afford to maintain its listed premises in East Stockwell Street and sold the building.

It used the money to fund the lease of its current home in George Street and to provide ongoing operating costs. However, it is thought the capital raised placed the charity at a disadvantage when competing for new funding after grants from the National Lottery and Essex County and Colchester Borough councils expired in 2009.

The Borough Council continues to part fund the charity, which costs £315,000 a year to run, but chairman of trustees Robert Needham says reserves are depleted to the stage where the charity cannot operate beyond March.

The charity employs three full-time staff, 20 part-time staff and 40 volunteers and offers a one-to-one service for older vulnerable people who have no family to help them.

It also runs social clubs and activities throughout the borough and day care centres that provide respite for both disabled clients and their families.

Mr Needham says the charity’s advice surgery has helped older people claim over £10million in benefits which is spent within the borough and supports local businesses.

“Older people in Colchester face losing their services, and staff face losing their jobs,” Mr Needham said.

“Age UK Colchester is near the edge of its own fiscal cliff. Efforts to obtain funding from grant giving trusts continue, and there are bids for funding outstanding, waiting to be considered. Given the level of competition for these, nothing can be taken for granted.”

Mr Needham stressed Age UK Colchester was an independent local charity responsible for its own funding and did not receive money for operating costs from the national charity Age UK.

Trading and marketing activities of the national charity such as sales of insurance, funeral plans, stair lifts, alarms and mobility equipment raise cash for Age UK nationally – not for Age UK Colchester.

He added: “Our social activities, lunch clubs and computer courses mean an awful lot to the people we serve.

“But we’re not giving up. We are embarking on a recovery plan and supporting staff.

“This is a rallying call to the people of Colchester to get behind Age UK Colchester and sustain our services.”

Donations can be made at the Age UK Colchester headquarters in George Street or more information can be found at www.ageuk.org.uk/colchester or by calling 01026 368420.

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