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Transport threat to club

PUBLISHED: 16:43 12 June 2008 | UPDATED: 11:12 03 July 2010

A VITAL service enabling the visually impaired to meet each other could be forced to close because of social service plans to cut funding for transport.

A VITAL service enabling the visually impaired to meet each other could be forced to close because of social service plans to cut funding for transport.

The Great Yarmouth Visually Impaired Persons Club (VIPs) caters for 22 people aged between the mid-60s and 90s who travel from as far afield as Belton, Bradwell, Gorleston, Caister and Hemsby to the town for the chance to socialise and play cards and dominoes.

But club secretar/treasurer Carole Rogers warned a meeting of Norfolk County Council's Yarmouth area committee on Monday the members, some of whom are blind, will not be able to travel into Yarmouth if the £6,200 a year funding is cut. The sum amounts to £5.50 per member per week.

A review of adult social service provision by the Eastern Locality Steering Group last year proposed changing to a system of direct payments. This would mean instead of giving money to the club to provide transport, the cash would be paid directly to the service users to use as they saw fit.

But Mrs Rogers said the change would mean members would not be able to get to the twice weekly meetings, which are held on Wednesdays and Fridays between 2 and 4pm.

“For some of these people it is the only time they get out. They are all visually impaired and some are blind. They come out to enjoy themselves,” she said.

Her sentiments were echoed at the meeting by county councillor John Holmes and Yarmouth borough councillor Penny Linden.

Mrs Linden said: “People have become friends because of the group. They have come to like each other's company and it has grown in popularity. I think it is a good kind of service for social services to be offering.”

And Cllr Holmes said: “I think with the way society is, if people can only get out to one club a week and that service is going to be withdrawn, it is going to be absolutely terrible.”

Geoff Empson, commissioning officer with the social services, sparked outrage from county councillor Colleen Walker when he described the club as “part of the furniture and fittings,” of social services in the town.

Mrs Walker called for transport provision to be arranged for the club's members and said: “The statement they have become part of the furniture is outrageous.”

But Mr Empson said the government had called for the change to a direct payment system because the review found service users wanted more control over the social service money so they could arrange their own services.

The aim of this is to provide them with more choice and individualised care.

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