Lothian Shopmobility has lost its £39,000 annual grant as part of council funding cuts
A service that provides vital support to the community faces the axe as a result of funding cuts.
Lothian Shopmobility is a charity that loans wheelchairs and mobility equipment to shoppers when they visit The Centre in Livingston.
However the organisation learned this week that its £39,000 annual funding is being withdrawn by West Lothian Council.
The service, which is manned by six members of staff and volunteers, has provided support to up to 50,000 shoppers since 1991.
Lothian Shopmobility co-ordinator Margaret Wilson said the charity is facing imminent closure.
“This service is vital for thousands of residents,” she said. “A lot of our users don’t see anyone else from one day to the next. Our staff are like extended family for many, they’re there for a chat or a blether. They get to socially interact - even just going for a coffee which doesn’t sound like a lot, but will mean a great deal to some people.
“I know users who have been depressed and suicidal believing life is so bad because they cannot get out of the house. “One couple I know, the lady had not left the house for six years. The service meant she left the house so her partner could get her an engagement ring. I cannot understand how the council can do this to thousands of elderly and disabled people who we help live an independent life.”
UNISON’s West Lothian branch has expressed its anger at the news the charity is facing closure.
The branch’s Martin Murray said: “Not only does this impact on our members but ending this service will socially exclude individuals and prevent them from participating in the local community and economy. The decision to cut funding to Lothian Shopmobility is a kick in the guts to this hard-working local organisation which has received financial support from this council for many years."
“This erodes the independence of marginalised people, and could lead to them taking their spend to Edinburgh where this service will be retained. It is UNISON West Lothian’s view that this is a short-sighted decision by the council and will mean that hundreds of local people battling with a disability will be less independent and less able to do their shopping. It is deeply troubling to hear that West Lothian Council could hold so little regard for the most vulnerable in the community."
West Lothian Council said applications from voluntary organisations for funding had been significantly higher than the amount allocated, and that council officers would work with groups affected to identify alternative funding streams.
A council spokesperson said: “The council is allocating grants to voluntary organisations totalling nearly £1 million next year. The funding will go towards helping local groups provide voluntary services in West Lothian.
“The council needs to reduce its overall spending by £65 million by 2022/23 due to increasing costs combined with insufficient funding from the Scottish Government – who provide us with 80% of our funding. £16million has to be reduced from our budget in 2019/20 alone and that has a huge impact on our ability to deliver some local services, including our ability to provide funding to local voluntary groups.
“Despite an overall reduction in the amount of funding we can allocate via voluntary organisation grants, a great number of groups and individuals will benefit from the funding.
“All organisations were aware, prior to them applying for grants, that the council had less funding than previous years to allocate. The total funds applied for totalled over £1.6million which is significantly above the council’s budget for this year and next year. Given budget restrictions the council asked an independent panel to consider all voluntary applications to allocate the £944,000 to organisations who applied for the grant funding.
“They assessed each application and made their decision based on which applications had the greatest impact and were most aligned to the council’s priorities. We understand that some organisations will be disappointed with their allocation; however the council has less money to spend than in previous years which makes it impossible for us to maintain the same level grant allocation.”
- Have you been affected by funding cuts in West Lothian? Contact [email protected]