‘It is now or never’ – Desperate plea to save Suffolk’s charities amid funding crisis
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Suffolk is waking up to a critical situation for its charities, a leading community spokesman has warned.
Tim Holder, director of public affairs at the Suffolk Community Foundation, has warned many more charities across the county could collapse – speaking after the shocking news that Age UK Suffolk will cease operations from next Friday due to the coronavirus crisis.
The community foundation has launched its Rebuilding Local Lives Appeal to provide support to charities struggling financially amid soaring demand, with fellow organisation Community Action Suffolk (CAS) warning 60% of the county’s 3,000 charities are prone to closing due to funding issues within the next year.
The closure of the charity, which cared for 8,340 older people across Suffolk in 2018/19, has been met with sadness, with local politicians labelling the news as a “huge loss”.
Mr Holder has warned further charities will “crash and burn” should more support – including from the public – not be introduced imminently.
Mr Holder said: “This is the first and most serious one out of the blocks – we have a county with more than 166,000 people living beyond retirement, 63,000 over the age of 74 and 50% of those are living on their own. Age UK Suffolk provided services in a county with a far higher, aging population than others and it is absolutely terrifying that their support is now gone. We’ve said this is going to happen, and it has happened.
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“I think people didn’t expect something like this to happen, that our most important charity for older people could just be allowed to disappear – but it has. It is gone.
“It will be an absolute tragedy if we have to experience what it is like to live without the vital charities we have. We can’t all look to someone else to do something, we all need to do our bit.
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“I am really hoping that the people in Suffolk will now wake up and realise the critical situation we find ourselves in. For the wellbeing of us all, we all need to look at what we can do, whether that’s volunteering or donating.
“If we can put money in to our local charities, give as individuals, as businesses, as councils – and seriously support our local charities, then we can do this. But now is the time to act.”
Mr Holder also said he fears for other local charities who will have to take on caring for those losing out to the charity’s collapsed – especially when they too face a funding crisis.
Mr Holder’s fears were echoed by Inga Lockington, Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group spokeswoman for health at Suffolk County Council, who added she is “very concerned” increasing numbers will now have to turn to the council for more intensive support.
The charity had previously received significant funding from parent charity Age UK, while Suffolk County Council cut funding for the charity from £357,576 in 2016/17 to £186,000 in 2018/19, before cutting funds entirely.
CAS CEO Christine Abraham, added although the county is “incredibly blessed” to be the home of so many charities, it may soon find themselves without many of them.
Ms Abraham said: “Sadly, many of those may well be feeling vulnerable amidst a perfect storm of high demand for services, and yet much reduced income from grants, fundraising activities, donations, and trading.
“If ever there was a time for us all to appreciate the work done by our charities and voluntary sector organisations, and to support it in whatever way they can, then now is it.
“While the lockdown may be easing and recovery planning well underway, the financial crisis is already severe for many charities and groups, who have already been eating into reserves in order to survive. Some just won’t be able to overcome their losses at the pace that would be required, given this very challenging climate.”
Beccy Hopfensperger, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for adult care said she was “shocked and disappointed” to hear of the news, while Ipswich MP Tom Hunt – who raised concerns regarding the charity in parliament before shaving his head to raise more than £2,000 for them – said the closure is “bad news” for the town and county, and finding alternative services for local people will be his primary focus.
Mr Hunt added: “The work the charity and their volunteers have done to support older people during the Covid-19 pandemic and for many years before that has been invaluable to our town and it will be very difficult to replace.”
Those who would like to donate to the appeal can do so by visiting www.suffolkcf.org.uk/suffolk-coronavirus-community-fund/, while links to the council’s Home, But Not Alone campaign can be found at www.suffolk.gov.uk.