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Centre 81 closes for now but still supports members

Posted on April 14, 2020

Staff of Centre 81 are still doing their bit for members even though the Great Yarmouth charity has been forced to close its doors for now because of the Coronavirus emergency.  They are maintaining contact by telephone with all 70-plus members of its skills and activities centre as well as those who use its community transport service. The charity is currently delivering shopping and prescriptions to about 30 people a week and this number is increasing as the lockdown continues.

Diana Staines, chief executive, said: “Members of our skills and activities centre are among the most vulnerable in our community, and they are considered high risk from Coronavirus. They need to be shielded. They all have disabilities with varying degrees of severity, and nearly all of them are prescribed medication. Shutting the doors on Centre 81 for even a short time causes severe problems, both physical and mental, for members and their family carers.

“The same is true of our community transport service members who normally rely on our fleet of 11 fully accessible minibuses to go shopping, to get to medical appointments or simply to maintain their social life. We can’t take them to these places on the buses now but we can make sure they have someone to talk to over the phone and can have their shopping and prescriptions collected and delivered.”  Non-members have heard about the service and are also being supported by Centre 81.

Julie Charles, manager of the skills and activities centre, said the majority of people understood the unusual circumstances and really appreciated the efforts of Centre 81’s staff. “It’s so important for us to keep in touch with people on a regular basis as many of them will be feeling very anxious, lonely and isolated at the moment. I know that hearing a familiar voice on the end of the phone cheers them up, and they have the reassurance of knowing that they can get shopping and medicine delivered,” she said.

“There’s a risk of vulnerable people being exploited at times like this, perhaps via social media or by cold-callers on the phone or at the doorstep. Centre 81 is a trusted organisation and we would be happy to provide a safe shopping delivery service for anyone who needs it, or who simply wants to hear a friendly voice at the end of the phone from time to time.”

Member Pam Fowler said: “I was so pleased to see the familiar Centre 81 bus, with the important words ability not disability on the side, and I waved to the driver and the young lady. It’s such a valuable service at this terrible time.”

Centre 81, which is based in Tar Works Road, employs 45 full-time and part-time staff, of whom 11 are currently working, including three facilitators and four drivers. Thirty-one have been furloughed so that the charity can reclaim 80% of their salary from the Government’s job retention scheme and Centre 81 is topping up their wages to make up the shortfall.

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