Swingeing cuts could force Huntingdonshire disability charity to close

SWINGEING government cuts could force a Huntingdonshire disability charity to close and others could follow, campaigners are warning.

Disability Huntingdonshire, formerly known as DISH, is facing a 25 per cent drop in funding from the trading standards department at Cambridgeshire County Council from April, as part of a fresh round of austerity measures.

The department is slashing funding to a number of outside organisations, following other substantial cuts to the council’s voluntary sector funding announced in August.

Disability Huntingdonshire, which provides advice and support to disabled people, will see its annual grant shrink from �16,000 to �12,000. From April 2013, the funding will drop by another quarter.

So far, the charity has submitted �650,000-worth of funding applications in a bid to make up the shortfall, but has had no response.

Trustees were warned at the charity’s annual general meeting last month that its current service may have to be scaled back or close completely. The charity can rely on its reserves for just six months to weather the shortfall.

Funding for its volunteering project called Opportunities for Volunteers, run alongside Disability Cambridgeshire, has also dried up.

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Manager Olly Cooper said: “We are looking for some way of making up the 25 per cent cut in county council funding. Our trustees do not want to cut back the service. At a certain point, it becomes meaningless.

“For the time being we will use reserves. Once that has all gone, we will have to bite the bullet – either have a drastically reduced kind of service or close.”

Currently the charity employs four members of staff and conducts home visits to disabled people across Cambridgeshire. Its staff help assess the needs of disabled people to ensure they are receiving appropriate levels of benefits.

Chairman Sandy Ferrell said: “If we can give disabled people a reasonable quality of life at home, that immediately benefits the NHS.”

CCC’s head of trading standards, Leon Livermore, said: “As a result of a reduction in government funding, all services have had to look at the funding they provide to outside organisations. As a result we have had to reduce the funding to DISH.

“We have reduced our back office costs to ensure as much money as possible is available to the outside bodies, including DISH, and we have also been in discussion with them about how they can take advantage of any other sources of income.

“We will continue to work with and support this important service in every way we can.”