17th Nov, 2018

Solihull charity which helps more than 1,300 vulnerable people has grant axed

Felix Nobes 25th Oct, 2018

A SOLIHULL charity working with more than 1,300 vulnerable people with learning disabilities has had a grant axed.

SoLO Life Opportunities chief Janet Down says it will prevent the charity running its adult evening and weekend social scheme.

The charity has issued an urgent fundraising appeal for new donors and sponsors in a bid to keep its services available for as many people as possible.

She says the scheme prevented social exclusion and financial exploitation while it nurtured friendships for those part of a ‘silent, hidden population’.

The community-based scheme specialised in ‘preventative work’ to stop those it cares for going into ‘crisis’, she added.

The charity says the funding cut will see a projected gap of £70,000 in the annual budget and could potentially see the closure of many other schemes that benefit adults with a learning disability.

The charity has attributed the loss of funding to central government cuts and the ‘impact of austerity affecting vulnerable people’.

Ms Down says the charity works closely with the council and commended it for keeping the financial package in place for so many years amid cutbacks elsewhere.

She said: “This is what we do best – when a crisis comes, we rise to the challenge and look at creative ways to ensure that our learning disabled members don’t miss out.

“What we really need, however, is wider support to ensure that we don’t have to close vital services to those who have very little to start off with.

“If there is a business out there that would like to sponsor us, or a person who could run an event, or if someone simply would like to become a ‘friend of SoLO’ and donate a small regular gift to us – it would all make a huge difference.”

Many members of the charity’s community have said the scheme is invaluable and provides people excitement.

One member’s mother said: “It’s his social life. He can’t verbalise what that is worth to people like him, but you can tell he likes to be with them. It’s important to him. . . If we say we won’t go to SoLO, he will protest, he sees his brothers go out and about.

“He wants to go out with his mates. He wants to have a normal life and go out like they do.”

One member said: “If I couldn’t go I would feel very upset if I was not able to see my friends; I would not bother to get up.”

Volunteer chair of SoLO Jan Prior: “The SoLO Board of Trustees are determined to work to protect as many of our vital services as possible.

“This will undoubtedly be a huge challenge to us as we already put a lot of effort into fundraising.

“However, we know that our adult members derive so much benefit from the various evening and weekend services that we have to do the right thing for them”.

Ms Down says staff and volunteers will not rest on their laurels and have organised a number of fundraising events which will help but cannot replace the funding.

They have also been very active in getting support from other local groups such as the Round Table, Rotary and Lions who have always been a great help to the organisation.

If you are interested in supporting this worthwhile organisation to keep vital services from closing, please email info@solihullsolo.org or call 0121 779 3865

COUNCIL RESPONSE:

Councillor Karen Grinsell, Cabinet Member for Adult Care and Health, said:

“Respite services for carers, which includes evening and weekend visits to relieve carers, were included as part of a contract that came into force on 1 April 2017.

“As part of these new arrangements the council agreed a generous transitional sum to Solo to support the organisation in moving to the new arrangements and to ensure continuity of service for carers.

“However, now that the council has a contract in place to deliver support and respite care for carers there is no legitimate reason to pay additional funding to Solo.

“The council continues to offer to Solo, and other local community and voluntary groups, help and support to plan for a sustainable future, but we cannot continue to provide subsidy for some groups and not others.

“Our scarce resources must be focused on those that need the help the most, and be allocated fairly and equitably”.

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