FoI reveals how £45,000 lottery cash to support Fenland club for the elderly was ‘running out fast’ just over a year later

In 2016 FACT won £44,830 through the People’s Lottery to expand its befriending and social club to m

In 2016 FACT won £44,830 through the People’s Lottery to expand its befriending and social club to meet growing demand. ITV featured this photo after their success. - Credit: Archant

Community transport provider FACT made an impassioned plea to a parish council for funding to help secure the future of a befriending group for the elderly – just a year after winning £45,000 of Big Lottery funding to help run the club.

An independent report commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council into the running and awarding of

An independent report commissioned by Cambridgeshire County Council into the running and awarding of home to school contracts to Fenland Association for Community Transport has revealed major issues over procurement, membership numbers and cross subsidisation of commercial and community contracts. Picture(s): Archant - Credit: Archant

In March of 2016, FACT (Fenland Association for Community Transport) was awarded £44,830 in the regional People’s Project competition promoted by Anglia TV.

Former FACT manager Jo Philpott (who left a fortnight ago in the wake of a critical county council report into its governance) had promised the lottery cash would be used for the befriending and social club to cope with extra demand.

However just 17 months later the cash was running out as Mrs Philpott explained to Wisbech St Mary Parish Council in a request looking for help in raising £10,000 “to continue for another year- we have secured £3,000 and require £7,000 to continue this valuable service”.

The information came from a Freedom of Information request sent out by the newspaper to dozens of parish and town councils across Fenland, East Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire following the £170,000, 288 page report into FACT and the way it operated.

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The FoI was intended to discover – in the light of proven misrepresentations of membership and need – how many local councils had been asked for financial support.

In her letter of August 14, 2017, to Wisbech St Mary Parish Council Mrs Philpott spoke of the ‘one-off’ funding of a year before “to implement a befriending group on a daily basis at our disabled friendly offices.”

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She wrote: “These befriending groups were set up by us in the hope of decreasing loneliness and isolation within the older generation of FACT members.

“Groups and friendships have formed and we collect up to 15 members per day to play bingo, take part in arts and crafts, share and swap their favourite books, play card games and most importantly given a chance to socialise with others in a similar situation.”

Mrs Philpott added: “At our clubs we provide a hot meal along with endless supply of tea, coffee and a selection of fresh homemade cakes.

“Our members are looked after by one of our committed members of staff who comes in for three hours a day to ensure food is prepared and activities set out.

“We also created a Saturday club, which runs monthly, where members come in to watch films, e.g. old westerns on a projector and have a hot meal.”

She said that as the dial-a-ride service doesn’t run on weekends “we find this service imperative and would like to do so every weekend, as weekends can be the worse time for isolation”.

Mrs Philpott explained that the lottery funding meant they could run the service for free “unfortunately the funding is now running out fast and we are passionate about keeping these daily clubs running for the older generation of the Fenland area.”

She said the cash requested of the parish council would support “the cost of food, beverages and transport.

“We want to make a difference. We would like your help to help us make a difference.”

The parish council did not agree to a donation but instead “agreed that the poster promoting the service would be placed in notice boards and village voices”.

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