Funding glitch cuts Age Concern job

ANGELA CROMPTON
Last updated 10:23 04/06/2014

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day falls on the same week Age Concern stops employing an elder abuse support worker in Marlborough.

Wendy Lefebre has been with the service for three years and has "put her heart and soul" into her work, says colleague and Age Concern older persons support worker Marilyn McLeod. It was a sad coincidence that a funding glitch had forced Lefebre's contract to end on June 10, three days before Age Concern Marlborough marks World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, McLeod said.

Lefebre's wages were originally covered by the government's Community Response Fund. When that was cut in 2012, Age Concern managed to find alternative funding sources. Appeals to ensure they continued for the 2014-2015 year, however, were overlooked by a new manager who was appointed earlier this year.

He had replaced long-term Age Concern co-ordinator Helen North who retired last December. When he realised there was no money to pay his wages, he resigned at the end of April, McLeod said yesterday. "But had he done his job, there would have been [funding]."

She described the past six months as "very stressful" for her and Lefebre, knowing their jobs were on the line. "We are one of the agencies that everyone relies on its funding."

Funding support for Age Concern Marlborough had traditionally come from bodies like the Canterbury Community Trust, COGS, and the Lotteries Commission, McLeod said. In April, the Marlborough District Council came to the rescue with some emergency money.

McLeod, who will continue working at the Age Concern office in Blenheim from 9am to 2pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 1pm on Fridays, said her employment was secure until August this year. She was unsure what could happen after that.

She described Age Concern as "a good organisation" and said its board members, who were all volunteers, were doing their best to help the organisation recover.

"They don't want the people of Marlborough to be deprived of this service. Sadly, Wendy had to pay the ultimate price and her work is so valuable."

When Age Concern board member Catherine Donnelly was asked about the funding crisis and Lefebre's job contract ending, she said she had no comment. It was a shame, Donnelly said, that there had to be a service for elder abuse in the Marlborough community and Age Concern would continue providing services to people needing help.

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- The Marlborough Express

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