Community First Comic Relief funding supports older people in Wilts


Community First Wiltshire will be able to bring support and relief to hundreds of isolated older people in Wiltshire thanks to funding from Comic Relief.

Community First is to be awarded just over £53,000 over the next two years to support older people living in Trowbridge and Royal Wootton Bassett. The money will be used to fund the Good Neighbour Service in the two areas, which provides financial and benefits information, debt counselling and other advice to people in their own homes.

It means that older people unable to travel due to transport costs or mobility  problems will get help where they need it rather than having to travel to towns and cities.

CF Good Neighbour Co-ordinators will first visit clients at home to discuss their needs and identify which organisations can help. Where debt counselling or in-depth information is needed on financial matters, a further visit will be made by one of Community First Wiltshire’s financial experts.

The support scheme has already been trialled with the families of young carers through a similar project called Care 4UR Cash and has been a great success.

“Older people are the largest group on low incomes in rural areas,” said CF Assistant Chief Executive Lynn Gibson. “Often travelling to more centralised services is not an option for them. Rural poverty and deprivation can be hidden by surrounding affluence and older people can sometimes feel reluctant to seek help or lack information about what support they are entitled to.

“This scheme will help around 285 people over two years and will provide things such as energy best deal advice, finance, care and benefits information, and debt counselling where this is needed.  We will work with the Citizens Advice Bureau and other partners to offer the more specialist advice and support such as Debt Relief orders.

“It builds on our experience of the Care 4UR Cash programme, which has reduced emotional distress in young carers’ families, avoided evictions and helped people to deal with over £350,000 worth of debt.

“The Good Neighbour Service will bring services to those who need them and will make a great difference to older people who are worried about finances or who don’t know how to access services. We are extremely grateful to Comic Relief and the public for this support.”

Lynn said the scheme will reduce stress and anxiety for vulnerable people.

“Some people are very vulnerable and struggle to understand things like benefits or energy bills,” she said. “They can get a lot of letters coming through the door from many different organisations and can get confused by complicated wording. They don’t feel confident about trying to explain their situation to statutory agencies. If they have financial worries they may be reluctant to talk about them or to seek help. But with one-to-one help in their own homes it becomes easier to open up.

“Through working with young carers’ families we have seen what a difference it makes to relieve that stress and take away the worry of how to deal with debt and financial concerns. This is a much needed service that will be invaluable to the people who use it.”