A “LIFELINE” shopmobility service has been given a cash boost thanks to the generosity of councillors – but the long-term future still hangs in the balance.
In October last year trustees at Hartlepool Access Group (HAG), which runs Shopmobility, based in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, said it was looking to reduce the service or stop it altogether unless it could find extra funding.
It came after Hartlepool Borough Council and Middleton Grange Shopping Centre scaled down their funding by £20,000 in total.
But funding has been provided from several town councillors from their ward budgets which has helped ensure the project stays open until at least the end of the financial year.
Further funding bids have been submitted for the next 12 months, but officials have warned if they are unsuccessful the service will have to “drastically reduce” or even face closure.
But for the meantime, bosses have thanked the councillors.
Members that contributed were Labour councillors Kevin Cranney, Linda Shields, Mary Fleet, Carl Richardson, Chris Simmons, Paul Beck and Rob Cook, independent councillor Pamela Hargreaves, Conservative councillors Ray Martin-Wells, George Morris and Brenda Loynes and Putting Hartlepool First leader Keith Dawkins.
The Shopmobility Project, which loans a variety of mobility equipment, has 1,600 members and provides support for family members and carers. Staff, who describe the service as a “lifeline” for many, are now looking for alternative funding.
Fiona Campbell, manager of HAG, said: “Thank you to those councillors who contributed to the Shopmobility Project as well as Shopmobility members who also donated, one member gave £200, to help save the project from closure.
“We were recently allocated funds, £9,000 to date, from Hartlepool ward councillors’ budgets which has meant that Shopmobility is able to continue until the end of the current financial year.
“Hartlepool Access Group is extremely grateful for the help and support that the ward councillors gave and on behalf of the trustees and Shopmobility members we would like to thank them.
“For the forthcoming financial year 2014-2015, funding applications have been made and we are currently awaiting their outcome.
“Even if Hartlepool Access Group are successful these grants only amount to approximately one-third of the streamlined budget.
“If we are successful and no other funds can be found, the Shopmobility Project will have to drastically reduce its operation and if unsuccessful, it will mean certain closure.”
HAG employs one full-time worker and three part-time and the Shopmobility Project has been running for 18 years.
In October the council said it continued to support Hartlepool Shopmobility through its Community Pool – along with a number of other voluntary/community sector organisations – but the level of support it receives had fallen in the current financial year following the introduction of an upper limit on grants of £15,000.
Middleton Grange Shopping Centre match-funded the council’s contribution so their funding has also been cut by £10,000.