Staff at a Broxtowe charity say they are shocked at Nottinghamshire County Council’s decision not to fund a transport scheme which helps people get to appointments and social events.
The Helpful Bureau in Stapleford, which helps elderly and disabled people to live independently across the borough, said it has consistently received funding from Nottinghamshire County Council for its transport scheme in the past.
But the charity discovered earlier this month that this year the scheme has not received any funding towards its wheelchair accessible van.
A council spokesperson said The Helpful Bureau did not meet all of the criteria in its application.
The charity had applied for £24,000 of funding to go towards running costs and the salary of a new driver for its vehicle, which can transport one wheelchair user and four passengers at a cost of £1 per person per mile.
Heather Bessant, operations and finance manager at the charity, said more than 600 people are registered to use the service, and it is used by around eight people a week.
She said the charity was not expecting to receive the full amount – but was shocked to find it had received nothing.
The charity did receive funding towards three of its other schemes, but Ms Bessant said the funds are ringfenced and cannot be used towards transport costs.
She said: “Nottinghamshire County Council have funded our transport scheme for 40 years. Ten years ago they gave us the wheelchair accessible vehicle to support residents.
“Now we have had two weeks’ notice that we don’t have any funding for our next financial year.
“How are they expecting us to run the scheme without any funding?
“To get nothing is crazy, we were very shocked. Transport has a knock-on effect on our other schemes.
“Our transport brings people to lunch club, takes people on trips and helps people to get to befriending groups. A trip to lunch club might be the only hot meal someone has that week.
“Socialisation really makes a difference to their lives and we have several wheelchair users who can’t afford wheelchair accessible taxis.”
County Councillor Kate Foale (Lab) added: “The Helpful Bureau do some fantastic work.
“What concerns me is that this scheme provides transport in the community for people who can’t otherwise get out and about.
“It concerns me generally with funding that everything is ringfenced. It feels like if you don’t tick the criteria you can’t do the work that we need in the community.
“If we care about people’s independence, community transport ought to be a priority.”
The charity also helps residents with gardening and decorating, as well as activities, day trips and befriending.
It has started a campaign online to raise £5,000 to fund the scheme.
Ms Bessant added: “We will lose the service if we can’t get the funds – but that would be the last resort.
“The over-70s were the first to be restricted and have been for the longest time. Now people are out of lockdown restrictions they want to get out and about.
“We’re seeing an increase in demand. We’ve got 14 volunteer drivers at the moment and they are busy.”
Mark Walker, group manager for the communities team at the county council said: “The Helpful Bureau applied for Local Communities Funding (LCF) towards five of its projects and was successful with three applications, meaning over the next four years they will receive a total of £120,540 in LCF money. This is one of the larger funding amounts we have allocated out of the 70 groups awarded this type of grant.
“To ensure that we are fair in our distribution of funds, all applications are very carefully assessed against the same set of criteria. This includes asking applicants to be clear on what plans and match-funding are already in place to maintain their projects.
“In the case of two of the Helpful Bureau’s applications, not all of the criteria were met. As with any unsuccessful application, we have spoken with the Helpful Bureau to explain why we were not able to make an award in these two cases, and we have offered information about further help and support, including a reminder that we are still welcoming applications for one-off, smaller revenue bids of up to £5,000. We are happy to discuss this further with them.
“We are proud that our discretionary Local Communities Fund is supporting groups, charities and voluntary organisations across the county, especially as Nottinghamshire continues its recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. Demand for this support has been unprecedented and £1.2 million has been allocated so far.”