Dismay at closure of support service

A MOTHER has spoken of her distress at the closure of a support service relied upon by more than 90 dementia sufferers and their families.Jane Chenery was put in touch with Age Concern Confused Elders Support Service (ACCESS), based in Halesworth, when she became carer for her grandmother, Pemela Smith, three years ago.

By Danielle Nuttall

A MOTHER has spoken of her distress at the closure of a support service relied upon by more than 90 dementia sufferers and their families.

Jane Chenery was put in touch with Age Concern Confused Elders Support Service (ACCESS), based in Halesworth, when she became carer for her grandmother, Pemela Smith, three years ago.

The service provides support and practical solutions for dozens of dementia sufferers and their carers.


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But from December, it will cease because Suffolk County Council has withdrawn funding for the service, as well as its equivalent in Ipswich, as part of sweeping cuts in social care.

The decision has been met with dismay by the families of its vulnerable users and a campaign group has now been set up to try and save the facility.

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Mrs Smith, 85, had suffered from Alzheimer's for seven years before her death in November last year.

She was previously cared for by her daughter, Hazel English, but Mrs English found the strain of the condition and the lack of help available too much to bear and took her own life.

When Mrs Chenery took over, ACCESS became a lifeline and enabled her to continue caring for her grandmother in her own home.

The 30-year-old, of Dukes Drive, Halesworth, said last night: “I feel the decision has been made without any foresight. What they're doing is a short-term solution.

“Had I not had the support from ACCESS, she would have had to go into a home and that would have been at a cost to them of between £300 and £450 per week.

“My mother took her own life from the pressure of caring and the pressure of seven years of battling and fighting long and hard with no help.”

“If she had had the fight left in her once the ACCESS team became involved I'm convinced she would still be here.”

The county council said the “devastating” settlement it received from the Government had left it with hard decisions to make over where to spend money.

Graham Newman, portfolio holder for adult and community services, said: “There are more and more older people in Suffolk, many of whom have specialist needs.

“We have a duty to make sure these people are properly supported. We also have to make the best use of taxpayers' money for the benefit of as many people as possible.

“We want to provide good value services for this growing population, within our resources. We must continue to improve the way we organise our services to meet rising expectations, growing demands and the changing nature of people's needs.

“We are committed to maintaining respite and day care services and helping people to stay in their own homes - which is something they tell us is what they want.”

Gordon Slack, dementia services director of Age Concern Suffolk, said people need information, advice and emotional and practical support as early as possible when they are diagnosed with dementia.

“The ACCESS team in Ipswich has been in existence for more than 20 years and the Halesworth team for 14 years and both have a good reputation in supporting people with dementia and their family carers,” he said.

“Age Concern will continue to support older people and their family carers as much as it can within its limited resources but will no longer have the specialist services of ACCESS.”

Jacqui Martin, chief executive of Suffolk Family Carers, said only two years ago the county council was discussing expanding the ACCESS team across the whole of Suffolk.

“I find it strange,” she said. “The closure of both these teams will be a huge loss, certainly to both our agency and also to family carers who are experiencing this type of caring role.”

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