A service which has supported both young and adult carers for the past 30 years is to close due to a lack of funding.
West Norfolk Carers, based at King’s Lynn’s Queen Street, supports more than 4,000 unpaid family carers in the area each year and relies on funding to keep running – 600 of these are young carers under the age of 18.
The charity announced last weekend on social media that, due to a lack of successful funding bids, it has no choice but to close on March 31.
The group’s dementia cafes are also at risk of closure if another charity cannot be found to take them on board.
Jane Evans, chief executive officer of West Norfolk Carers said: “We are very sad to be closing our doors, however, we take comfort from the fact that we have helped so many carers over the years, and helped shape services more widely.
“It is a huge privilege to know that carers have trusted us to help them; often through some of their darkest moments and that, we have made a genuine difference to all the families we have supported.
“Unfortunately funding constraints mean that we simply cannot continue.
“To run the charity every year it costs £240,000. We offer school support, one- to-one support and group work.”
Ms Evans said it has become “increasingly hard” to obtain funding amid stiff competition.
“Three years ago, I could have guaranteed we could have got funding. But it is different now, this is happening to charities up and down the country,” said Ms Evans.
She added West Norfolk Carers gets no “core funding” and has “no reassurance” it will receive funding at all.
“The trustees have taken the decision to say to close as it could be dangerous if we remain open,” added Ms Evans.
Chairperson of trustees, Marion Coleman added: “We have been successful in gaining some grant funding, however, despite our very best efforts, it is not enough, and we cannot safely continue.
“It is safe to say that whilst many people we support are experiencing a cost of living crisis, organisations such as ours in the charitable sector, are experiencing a cost of giving crisis, and this has resulted in our sad decision to close.”
Ms Evans said her job now will be to help carers who depend on the service, and she is speaking to other organisations which could help.
The charity runs a number of services including young carers groups where children who care for a family member can meet with others of a similar age and situation. In both Lynn and Hunstanton, it also runs an Alzheimer’s support group.
West Norfolk Carers needs to raise £240,000 a year to keep running and funding previously issued has included £30,000 from Norfolk County Council.
However, the authority is planning to launch a new service in April which it says will support carers via a new young carers and families service, and gave assurances support is not being reduced.
Penny Carpenter, cabinet member for children’s services at the county council, said: “We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting carers across the county and ensuring they have access to the support and resources they need.
“This includes reviewing how services are funded and delivered to meet the changing needs of our carer community.
“Our new young carers and family service will be delivered by Voluntary Norfolk in partnership with the Benjamin Foundation, under the name of Young Carers Matter Norfolk.
“While we understand that any changes could be a cause for concern among carers and the community, we’d like to reassure them that their support is not being reduced.
“Our new young carers and families service has been designed based on feedback from young carers themselves and is focused on making sure children and their families have the right support.
“It was also important to ensure that schools can support pupils who are young carers, and there is support for young carers to access post 16 opportunities such as college, work and training.
“Young carers have also told us that they want more personalised support, rather than group activities as young carers, and we have included that in the requirements of the new service.
“We recognise and value the vital role that a wide range of community groups and organisations in the county offer to young people, including those who are young carers.
“We will continue to work in partnership with them, alongside any specific services that we directly commission.”
The closure of West Norfolk Carers will result in nine job losses and will affect 34 volunteers who are said to be “crucial” in its running.
North West Norfolk MP James Wild, who has previously fundraised for the charity, said: “It is very disappointing that West Norfolk Carers have taken the decision to close the charity.
“They have played a vital role in providing important support for carers, particularly young carers, locally.
“West Norfolk Carers is a charity I have supported for several years including raising funds for them when I ran the London Marathon in 2021.
“I am talking to the charity about what happens next as it is important carers continue to be supported.”
Borough councillor Alexandra Kemp, who represents the South and West Lynn Ward, said it is “outrageous” funding has not been forthcoming.
Ms Kemp, also a county councillor, said county councillors were not informed or addressed before funding was taken away.
She added: “West Norfolk Carers supports 350 young carers and supports dementia families at the Dementia Café.
“The money is being taken away from West Norfolk and everything run centrally and the young carers support will be delivered through schools only. How is this going to reach the 10 per cent of young carers who are home-educated? This is insensitive and heartless.”
The news has prompted concerns on Facebook with people expressing shock for the loss of a “hugely respected” and “incredibly valuable” service.
“Shocked, wrong. This needs drastic action now,” said one post.
Another said it would be a “huge loss” to a great number of people who have come to rely on the service.
Another post said: “So sad. When everyone is struggling financially charities suffer – donations drop off and competition for other funding increases.
“Unfortunately, it coincides with the time that people need support from said charities the most. A sad situation indeed.”