Brent Carers Centre fears it will close after 25 years as Brent Council slashes funding for new service provider
PUBLISHED: 13:03 15 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:41 06 November 2019
An award-winning carers charity serving Brent for 25 years fears it could be forced to close after the council slashed its funding.
Brent Carers Centre, which provides support for thousands of carers from its base in the Willesden Medical Centre, High Road, is due to celebrate its Silver Jubilee on November 21.
But the council is looking for a new service provider for its "Gateway to Support Services" contract and Brent Carers Centre has lost the bid.
The contract is likely to be awarded to a consortium led by Age UK Brent, Harrow and Hillingdon. Harrow Mencap and Capable Communities are also part of their bid, the council said.
Charity chiefs received the news on October 3 and went public six days later on the eve of World Mental Health Day, "a day that recognises that carers usually suffer [from mental health problems] as a result of their caring responsibilities".
Irene Lewis, chair of the board of trustees, said: "All the board and many of the staff are carers and former carers.
"We are experts in this field, and have always gone that extra mile to meet the needs of carers.
"I am devastated that we may not be able to continue to provide this service. The people we provide care for are very vulnerable and this will have a major impact on their lives as well as the people they care for."
The charity, founded in 1994, has won many awards in its 25-year history including Best Independent Carer Support Service in London in the Social Care Awards for the last three consecutive years. And it was nominated by Brent Central MP Dawn Butler for the Care and Compassion Award at the NHS 70 Parliamentary Awards last year.
Cllr Harbi Farah, Brent's cabinet member for social care, said: "Brent Carers Centre previously held a contract to provide carers services for us and bid for the new contract.
"Brent Carers Centre is not the successful bidder, though the contract has not been formally awarded and is subject to proper procurement and scrutiny processes."
The new contract brings together five existing services "into a hub model", he added, which "will enable carers to access the services they need at a number of locations around the borough".
And he said: "Brent Council recognises the importance of carers and young carers and the very valuable support they provide.
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"We want to ensure carers in Brent are able to access all the help and support they need, where and when they need it."
Ms Lewis said there are an estimated 30,000 carers in Brent, with more than 6,000 currently registered with Brent Carers Centre.
The charity provides care, when a family member or close friend is struggling, for people who are ill, disabled or frail, have a mental health issue, or live with a long term conditions such as dementia or multiple sclerosis.
"We give advice [including] benefit advice," said chief exec Anne-Marie Morris. "We allow carers to access social care support if they need it and had partnerships to deliver advocacy which will go to the new contract.
"We developed a counselling service which will be lost. We thought we put in a strong bid and we are disappointed it wasn't strong enough and our legacy is immaterial."
Ms Morris added: "We like to think we can still maintain a presence in the borough but it's a shame to lose it on our 25th anniversary."
One carer, a local mother of three, said: "Brent Carers' Centre has provided a lifeline for me and my children.
"[They gave] emotional support, practical support, respite, counselling and a grant when we faced a crisis. We don't know how my family would have survived without the support.
"I'm devastated that we may lose this service, as are so many others."
A young carer who regularly gets support from the centre added: "I enjoy coming to the young carers' outings and have also had some counselling as I was struggling at school.
"I'm really sad that it might close and don't know what I'll do without it."
But Cllr Farah added: "I'd like to reassure all carers in Brent that we will continue to support them and they will be still able to access carer support services.
"We would like to thank Brent Carers Centre for all the work they have done to support the carer community in Brent over the past 25 years."
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