Day centre cut fears of elderly in Essex

By Nic Rigby
BBC News

image captionEssex County Council has proposed millions of pounds of savings

Services provided for the high numbers of elderly people living in a seaside community in Essex could be hit by spending cuts, a charity has warned.

Tendring, which includes Harwich and Brightlingsea, has one of the highest concentrations of people aged above 50 years.

The figures have been revealed in research conducted for the BBC by public sector analysts at Experian.

Age Concern in Harwich said it was concerned day centres could be axed.

Experian found that 47.4% of the population of Tendring fitted into this category. The UK national average is 34.5%.

Fear of cuts

Dorothy Cole, secretary of Age Concern Harwich, said there was a large elderly population in the town with many people moving to retire by the sea.

She said she was concerned that council savings could hit the services the charity provides as the number of elderly people increases.

"It is the financial side of the cuts that could hit us. We are coping at the moment with more people coming through the door," she said.

Mrs Cole said she did not believe it would be easy to fill the gaps in elderly services caused by major cuts in funding across the country.

"They want us to do more and more and we haven't got the energy. But we'll try to do our best," she said.

Mrs Cole said if Essex County Council increased the cost of the hire of community centres used for day centres in Harwich they might be cut.

Essex County Council has proposed millions of pounds of savings, but says it aims to protect the vulnerable in the county.

It says it aims to work with voluntary groups to help provide advice to elderly people about how to access care.

The council has helped elderly people to live in their own homes, rather than in more expensive care homes.

'Value for money'

Essex County Council deputy leader David Finch said it was too soon to say how any possible cuts could affect day centres.

He said anyone with concerns should get in contact with the county council.

Mr Finch said the council had about 242,000 elderly people in its catchment area and had a number of innovative ways to help support them.

One of the schemes used is Telecare, which allows elderly people to live in their own homes but with censors to alert the council if any problems develop.

"Funding cuts need to be looked at because of the national position, but we must extract maximum value for money," he said.

Tom Smith-Hughes, leader of the Lib Dems on Essex County Council, said it was vital that with any cuts the council still provided advice and advocacy services for the elderly.

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