How ‘crippling cuts’ are affecting our elderly in Dacorum

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A pensioner who drained her ISA account of funds for taxi fares to visit her sick husband at Watford Hospital is just one example of how crippling care cuts are affecting the elderly.

It is a heartbreaking story that highlights how desperate things have become for some older residents of Dacorum.

David Pearce, chief executive officer of AgeUK Dacorum

David Pearce, chief executive officer of AgeUK Dacorum

AgeUK Dacorum has the unenviable task of aiding some of the 34,000 people in the area aged 65 or over.

It helps 7,000 elderly people every year, but 40 per cent of its annual £400,000 turnover is from fundraising - and the rest seems to shrink even more year by year.

It’s a difficult task for chief executive officer David Pearce - but despite the apprehension he must feel when looking at the balance sheet, he seems determined that a joined approach to tackling the cuts will result in a healthier outcome.

He said: “The clinical commissioning groups do have a very difficult job because the cuts to social care are coming from central government.

We know cuts are inevitable, but let’s make them realistic.

David Pearce, chief executive of AgeUK Dacorum

“But what we’re not seeing is an action plan. We need to come together, work with the CCG, include the voluntary sector, and all move together in the same direction.

“It seems like we’re putting the roof on the house first when we don’t have any of the foundations.”

Meanwhile David and his staff continue to offer a number of services that older people rely on - but they often bear the brunt of the cuts.

They include daycare, a handyman scheme which helps residents with DIY projects at home, coffee and tea meetings, and counselling.

Daycare particularly is an important service, as a growing number of pensioners feel lonely within their own walls.

David said: “If we have someone in daycare and the funding gets cut, they stop coming and they will become isolated at home.”

The daycare also helps prevent a vicious cycle of people becoming ill, and finding it difficult to get the care needed from either a hospital, urgent care centre or a GP practice.

David said: “There’s a lot of publicity about hospital beds and GP waiting lists, but if you cut frontline services that has an impact on both.

“We know cuts are inevitable, but let’s make them realistic cuts. If there’s a £10,000 cut to a service then we’re in trouble. If it’s something more like a couple of grand then that is a little bit more manageable.

“But most importantly, let’s make sure the cuts are in the right places.”

He added: “For an older couple in Hemel Hempstead, if one of them has a fall they will end up at Watford. And that partner may struggle to get to Watford or can’t afford it.

“Then they are separated and both become isolated.

“We spoke to one woman who was getting a taxi to hospital every day. She spent everything in her ISA account and had no money left to go and visit her loved one.

“Daycare is vital because it gets people out of the house, they meet people and make friends.”

While supporting calls for a new hospital, David feels sure that more can be done now as well as looking to the future.

He hopes as many people as possible attend a forum at the South Hill Centre in Hemel Hempstead from 11am-3pm on January 18, where the CCG will hear from residents.

David said: “The event will hopefully be an opportunity for the CCG to listen to what residents have to say, and for us all to start to work together on a plan that provides the best service possible for the elderly people of Dacorum.

“And we need to protect what we have so far.”

The event on Wednesday January 18 will give older people the opportunity to let their views be known.

To register for a place at the event contact Age UK Dacorum on 01442 259049 or email admin@ageukdacorum.org.uk