A local charity for disabled people in Croydon is trying to raise £6,000 for a new minibus, after its old one fell foul of emissions regulations.
Croydon Carers Centre was established in 1995 to help the 30,000 carers in the borough and many other areas in London, including Bromley, Mordon, Sutton and Lambeth.
As well as providing advice and support to carers of disabled and elderly people of all ages, it also aims to offer them respite by running day trips to Butlins, Cambridge, Margate and other places.
But the charity is now unable to use its minibus for the trips as it does not meet new emission regulations.
Lucille Montgomery, 64, who has cared for her 68-year-old brother all her life, said: “On the trips, I don’t stop worrying, but it’s a lovely day out [and] we all look forward to it.”
The charity is now seeking donations in order to buy a new £6,000 minibus. In the meantime, Ray Greenway, the centre’s chairman, is trying to put together an innovative solution: using the empty seats he sees on coaches leaving from Victoria station.
“I will ask the National Express whether they can notify Croydon Carers Centre when there are empty seats and charge a set price of £10 to fill their seats,” he says.
The loss of the minibus is just the latest worry for the centre and the community it serves.
The future of a charity itself is in jeopardy due to government cuts and an expanding clientele.
Greenway told EastLondonLines that the charity already struggles to provide the help its clients need, as it receives just £13,000 a year from Croydon Council.
He describes how he is always trying to find new ways to provide care and support for the carers. The charity has a free 10 per cent discount card to help reduce financial strain which works in shops, including the Early Learning Centre, Mobility Centre, Day Lewis Pharmacy and others.
“When the carers come in, they’re miserable as sin. Our job is to get them to smile, so they can leave laughing, even if it’s at my expense! It’s the only way they can cope,” says Greenway.
However, government cuts mean that even this could be at risk. The shake-up in Disability Living Allowance will mean about 500,000 people will lose disability benefits. These cuts may also affect the carers who will not only have to provide physical care but financial too.
The Carer’s Allowance pays £55.55 to carers for a minimum of 35 hours of care per week. This is under half the amount of money someone could earn on minimum wage for the same amount of time.
“I don’t know how some of these carers will survive,” says Greenway.
Croydon Labour Councillor Maggie Mansell, who opposes the shake-up in disability care, told EastLondonLines: “The privatisation of mental health care effectively exploits vulnerable people.”
If you would like to donate or volunteer at the Croydon Carers Centre visit www.croydoncarers.org.uk.