Charity for older people has busiest year ever during pandemic
- Credit: Supplied
A local charity for older people in the community has had its busiest year ever, offering advice and support to pensioners in need during the pandemic.
Over the past year St Albans Old People's Trust has spent around £200,000 supporting older people by paying for community meals, care alarm systems and weekly cleaning services.
It provided supermarket vouchers, replaced washing machines and cookers, part-paid for new boilers, donated recliner chairs and glasses and replaced dangerously worn carpets.
The trust also helped to part-pay for four funerals.
Trust manager Kate Newton said: "During these tough times, we always want to hear from new people. You just have to be 60 or over, live in the district and be what we call ’in need, hardship or distress’.
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"There are all sorts of reasons why people can’t afford to fund items themselves, we are very sympathetic and appreciate that everyone’s circumstances are different."
The trust also launched a campaign in partnership with St Albans Citizens Advice encouraging 1,500 local people aged 65 or older to apply for Pension Credit they were missing out on.
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This is a benefit which provides a weekly top-up to their income, on average an extra £55 every week - as well as entitling people aged 75-plus to a free TV licence. It also opens up access to other financial support including free NHS dental treatment, help towards the cost of glasses and travel to hospital, a cold weather payment and Housing Benefit.
In the St Albans constituency there are 1,045 older people missing out on a total of £2.9 million in Pension Credit, while in Hitchin and Harpenden constituency 1,013 people – about half of whom live in the St Albans district - are missing out on £2.5 million in unclaimed benefit.
June Chapman, chief executive of Citizens Advice St Albans said: “We have helped local old people to get Pension Credits and they tell us it has transformed their life, making it much more comfortable.”
Kate explained: “We want to set the record straight about Pension Credits. For example, most people don’t realise that they have to apply for it: the Government won’t automatically give it to them.
"They can own their own home, have savings, have a private pension and/or still be working. If they’ve been turned down in the past its definitely worth reapplying."
The trust also contacted 250 former clients in April and July, to check that they were well, safe, had a way of getting food and able to keep warm and to ask if they need any support.
Kate added: "It’s been lovely to catch up with past clients and talk to new ones. Almost everyone we called up was delighted that someone is thinking of them and is offering help. We have been able to use our extensive knowledge of new and existing local old people’s services to put callers in touch with other organisations which can also help them.
"Many of our most vulnerable clients haven’t talked to anyone outside their immediate family for months and it’s been a delight to chat with them."
The trust is an independent charity set up in 2000 using proceeds from the sale of Glenalmond Nursing Home on King Harry Lane. Last year it gave 219 grants, up by over 50 per cent on the previous year, and funded around £50,000 in ongoing grants for weekly cleaning, Community Meals and alarm costs.
St Albans Old People's Trust can often help those turned down by social services or the NHS. If you, or someone you know, are 60 or over and live in the St Albans district and could so with some support please call 07541 659442 or email firstname.lastname@example.org