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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

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Threat to charity Age UK jobs in Carlisle

Jobs could go at a leading Carlisle charity which helps older people.

Up to a third of jobs are at risk at Age UK Carlisle and Eden, which employs around 50 people across the area.

Chief executive Angela Murray said its existing frontline services that help older people would not be affected.

Consultation on a possible restructure of the organisation, which also relies on the support of 500 volunteers, began last week.

The review of operations has been sparked by the loss of a contract worth around £200,000 with Cumbria County Council after a shake-up in funding and other “significant factors”.

The future of the charity’s Carlisle base in Spencer Street may also be in doubt but Mrs Murray said the city would still have an operational office.

Age UK Carlisle and Eden also raises vital funds for its work through its network of shops across Carlisle, Brampton, Shap, Alston, Kirkby Stephen and Penrith.

The organisation runs a range of services for older people including day care centres, Shopmobility schemes, a cafe and a dial-a-ride scheme. It also offers benefits and welfare information and advice.

The consultation will run until the end of this month before the charity’s trustees consider making any changes.

Mrs Murray said some changes could result in a number of workers having their hours cut rather than their posts being axed. New roles could also be created.

Any proposed changes have to be agreed by the charity’s trustees before they can be introduced, a move that may take months. Meetings with staff have taken place and formal letters stating posts are at risk of redundancy have been issued.

Mrs Murray said: “Frontline services are not changing. They will be continued to be delivered across Carlisle and Eden.

“We merged in 2009 – we were separate Carlisle and Eden organisations – but when we came together we continued to operate in exactly the same way so there is some of the post-merger work we have to do.”

She added: “We are having to look at making changes so we are more sustainable in the future.

“If you realign where you are you can respond to new contracts and needs as they arise.I know the services will still be there. Staff will still be responding to people’s needs and people who need us should not see that much of a difference, that is something that is very important to us.

“We cover a large area and are one of the largest charities in the area. We need to secure our future.”

The charity also has operational bases in Appleby and Penrith. Its offices in Penrith are understood to be safe from any potential changes.

Turnover in 2010/11 year was around £1.2m. Work is being done to finalise last year’s accounts but turnover is expected to be under £1m.

Mrs Murray said: “We are unable to comment on confidential staff matters.

“However, we want to reassure the local community that our priority is to help and support as many local older people as possible who need us. Clearly we are working in a difficult economic climate and of course this poses challenges, but we will continue to make the most of our available funding to carry on delivering the essential services we provide, reflecting our commitment to improving later life for local older people.”

The charity has also received a recent cash boost from Carlisle City Council, which will help it assist those seeking welfare support and benefits.

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