A CASH-STRAPPED town charity which helps more than 7,000 disabled people every year has had to axe its service by half after falling victim to savage funding cuts.
Hartlepool Access Group Shopmobility, based in Middleton Grange Shopping Centre, currently runs six days a week – at a cost of £80,000 per year – providing disabled people with shopping aids, and vital information.
But due to funding drying up, the organisation is having to lay off two of its four staff members and cut its service to just three days a week from next Tuesday.
It still needs to find £36,000 to keep up and running though.
Fiona Campbell, manager of Hartlepool Access Shopmobility, said: “We help people of all ages with mobility problems to achieve a better level of independence through shopping. We have 1,802 members every year, and in excess of 5,000 people who we give advice and information to.
“We have a lack of funding this year though as our normal stream of funding has not been successful. We’re still waiting to hear from other sources but it’s got to the point of having to reduce the service from next Tuesday going from six days a week, Monday to Saturday, to three days a week, Tuesday to Thursday.
“For the reduced service to run we need about £36,000 and so far we haven’t got any confirmation of funding.
“It’s a big shame, especially as we are the only organisation of its kind in Hartlepool.If we close then it will have a big impact in Hartlepool as 26 per cent of the population in Hartlepool is disabled in one way or another.”
One way Shopmobility staff hope to rake in some cash is through the Philanthropic Foundation’s £10,000 Goalden Giveaway in conjunction with Middlesbrough FC.
They are urging members of the public to vote for the service on the foundation’s website.
Shopmobility applied to the foundation and were the only Hartlepool organisation selected in the final 10 which will now go through to a public vote to decide how much funding they will receive.
The organisation receiving the most votes will receive £2,500 together with a publicity visit from Middlesbrough FC manager Aitor Karanka. Second place will receive £1,500, £1,000 for third to fifth, sixth and seventh will receive £750, and the remaining three organisations will receive £500 each.
Fiona added: “We’ve been running for 22 years and we don’t want the service to fold so we’d really urge people to vote for us.”
To vote log onto www.teessidecharity.org.uk until Wednesday, April 30.
The other good causes in the running include Middlesbrough Powerchair Football Club, Child Deaf Youth Project, and Daisy Chain.