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Fakenham drop-in centre praised

PUBLISHED: 09:41 01 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:45 07 July 2010

A government task force praised the work of a Fakenham drop-in centre during a fact-finding visit aimed at creating policies to help the elderly in isolated rural areas.

A government task force praised the work of a Fakenham drop-in centre during a fact-finding visit aimed at creating policies to help the elderly in isolated rural areas.

The cabinet office's Social Exclusion Task Force, headed by Tim Crosier, has been travelling the country to form proposals for the government's new “ageing strategy”, set to be published in spring.

On Tuesday, the team visited the community information centre at First Focus, which was set up in 2003 to give elderly and disabled people access to a range of social, health and voluntary services.

Since then, the service has expanded and now opens twice a week, drawing up to 80 people on the town's Thursday market days.

The drop-in centre at Cattle Market Street also gives visitors the chance to join art and gardening groups, use computer facilities, or simply make new friends and chat.

Mr Crosier was told that transport was a key problem in rural Norfolk, and that the successful centre could be in danger of closing unless funding support was given by “statutory services” such as the NHS and Adult Social Services.

He said: “One of the issues we are looking at is how we learn from the good practices and people around places like this, dissimilate that information and translate it to other places.

“There is obviously a need here for people who are not eligible for statutory services but have a low level need where they are not getting support. This resource is able to plug that gap and it is a really exciting development.”

Terry Read, a development worker for adult social services at Norfolk County Council, conceived the First Focus project in 2003.

He said the centre was run by two full-time employees and a team of volunteers, but the Big Lottery grant which made up 90pc of its funding had almost run out.

“We have clearly evidenced over the last six years that a resource like this is very much needed and welcomed in this type of rural environment,” he said. “But, while we are still looking for independent funding, we feel it is now time for the statutory services to recognise the fantastic job that is going on and put their money where their mouth is. There is a danger it may not be sustainable unless we can get the money.”

The task force also visited Wells and Cromer before meeting council officers and other age-related agencies at County Hall in Norwich.

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