Letchworth’s Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre ‘facing uncertain future’ following grant funding axe

The Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre following its makeover by Community SOS volunteers in S

The Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre following its makeover by Community SOS volunteers in September last year. - Credit: Archant

A beloved social club and day care centre in Letchworth that supports more than 100 older people faces an uncertain future following a loss of grant funding, according to its treasurer.

Howard Garden Social Centre treasurer Tony Page with Marion Wheatley and Liz Allen at last month's f

Howard Garden Social Centre treasurer Tony Page with Marion Wheatley and Liz Allen at last month's fundraising spring fair. Photo: Karyn Haddon - Credit: Archant

The Howard Garden Social and Day Care Centre, in Norton Way South, is an independent charity that provides companionship, hot meals and activities.

It used to be able to count on an annual £5,000 grant towards its running costs from North Hertfordshire District Council – but last year this was stopped, and treasurer Tony Page says the centre’s long-term survival is now under threat.

He told the Comet: “We were informed in May 2016 that we would no longer receive grant funding from the district council. We were told that they could no longer contribute towards running costs.

“Our organisation has provided essential companionship and support for the lonely and elderly residents of Letchworth for the last six decades. They come to our centre for activities, a hot two-course meal and to socialise.

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“We have reduced our paid staff and rely heavily on volunteers. Most of our funds are raised by ourselves, but the grant from North Herts District Council was essential to our long-term survival.”

The centre has put together a programme of fundraising events to help plug the gap and ensure there is as little impact on users as possible.

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The community has been generous and supportive, Tony said, but ultimately there is only so much they can give.

He said: “Most people that I have spoken to think that the funding cut is short-sighted in that somebody has to support the vulnerable elderly.

“At the moment we are not planning an appeal to the district council, but if our reserves run out we may have to rethink that.”

The next planned Howard Garden fundraiser is an auction evening on June 17, during the Letchworth Festival. Last month’s spring fair raised £525.

Councillor Tony Hunter, the district council’s executive member for community engagement, said in response to Mr Page’s concerns that the criteria determining eligibility for grants had changed, and that support can now only be given to specific activities.

He said: “North Hertfordshire District Council offers community grants to help get projects off the ground which will be of benefit to the local community. Over the last 12 months the council has provided over £100,000 in funding across the whole district which has benefitted the local community in a wide variety of ways.

“The criteria which determines eligibility for the grants has recently changed which means that grants are no longer available to assist with running costs of groups and can only be obtained for specific projects and activities.

“The Howard Garden Social Centre has previously benefitted from NHDC’s grant funding – £5,000 in June 2014 – and continues to receive support from the park ranger, who runs a regular gardening club for users at the centre.

“If the centre has a specific project they are seeking funding for they can apply to us for a grant through the Letchworth area committee. Our community officers can also give advice regarding how to access grants via external streams.”

The centre received a makeover by volunteers as part of North Hertfordshire Homes’ Community SOS project in September.

To find out more about the centre, which has been running since 1953, see howardgardensocialcentre.org and facebook.com/Howard-Garden-Social-Day-Care-Centre-1526465327575139, or give them a call on 01462 682524.

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