Five centres caring for the most vulnerable in Cambridgeshire suffer council cuts

An Lac House which has been affected by cuts to housing related support in Cambridgeshire. Picture:

An Lac House which has been affected by cuts to housing related support in Cambridgeshire. Picture: ABBEYFIELD - Credit: ABBEYFIELD

Five centres offering support for Cambridgeshire’s most vulnerable have had their funding reduced by the county council.

An Lac House which has been affected by cuts to housing related support in Cambridgeshire. Picture:

An Lac House which has been affected by cuts to housing related support in Cambridgeshire. Picture: ABBEYFIELD - Credit: ABBEYFIELD

The Adults Committee voted five to three, with Conservative councillors voting for and opposition Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors voting against cuts to Housing Related Support for centres offering support for elderly and vulnerable adults.

The decision ended the grant funding for An Lac House, which supports 10 elderly Vietnamese residents; Ramsey Welfare Charities, which offers 41 units of accommodation for the elderly in Ramsey; for Storey's House, which provides 50 units of accommodation in Cambridge City and eight in the South Cambridgeshire district for elderly women, including some with a "significant level of frailty"; and Wisbech Charity, which provides 21 units of accommodation for the elderly in Wisbech.

Cambridge homelessness charity Jimmy's had its Assessment Centre's funding reduced by £40k, although other contracts worth hundreds of thousands were extended following negotiation.

The charity receives about a third of its funding from the council, of which this cut represents about 10 per cent.

Cambridgeshire County Council said it spends £7.4 million on the non-statutory Housing Related Support services to support vulnerable adults and the elderly.

By not renewing the contracts the council said it will save £359,000.

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The committee chairwoman, councillor Anna Bailey, stressed in the meeting the decision was "not about closing down facilities" but continuing a shift started in 2014 to a different kind of support service, changing from on-site care to a floating service using staff visits, which is already available.

She added the decision would create greater "geographic equity" in service provision across the county.

Chairwoman of the board of trustees for Cambridge homelessness charity Jimmy's, Fiona Blake, said the organisation is "not completely comfortable" with the cut negotiated with the council, but said it felt it was "important to assist the council in enabling them to move forward".

Speaking after the decision was made she said: "We negotiated with the council a long enough extension to our contract so that we can continue to deliver services to the people of Cambridgeshire, which is vital."

She said Jimmy's will now further need the assistance of its donors as it "does not want to rely as heavily on one contract" in future.

In a statement issued after the meeting cllr Bailey said: "The Housing Related Support review has been a vital piece of work to ensure we prioritise services that can help the most vulnerable at the right time, in the right place and in the right way.

"Housing Related Support had not been reviewed for a number of years and it was critical to make sure that those services we commission are also cost effective in how they help people. This means making sure they can support people facing homelessness and other crises, by not only providing accommodation for a short period of time, but are effective in helping them regain independence.

"The next phase will now be about investing in best practice proven from around the country, such as Housing First, to make sure the most vulnerable in our communities can rebuild their lives and have a quality of life that many of us enjoy.

Our top priority will always be to make sure every pound we spend on Housing Related Support helps transform the lives of those in crisis and facing homelessness."

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire County Council said of the change to Jimmy's contract after the meeting: "The Housing Related Support review is about making sure we are providing the best possible range of HRS services for vulnerable adults across Cambridgeshire using best practice, which often offer better value.

"We've also been reviewing high value contracts to identify savings. As part of these savings proposals, we spoke to Jimmy's Assessment Centre about reducing their contract value. They responded with a proposal to reduce by £40,000 which has now been agreed.

"This reduction would be applied for the remainder of any contract period if this proposal is agreed at the next committee. We are looking forward to working with Jimmy's and other organisations towards the new models of support."

Leader of Cambridge City Council, labour councillor Lewis Herbert, said the decision to cut the funding of Jimmy's was "totally unacceptable".