Marlborough’s Jubilee Centre on the High Street has built an enviable reputation over the years for creating a community of elder members from the town and surrounding area, offering them entertainment, purpose, activity, interaction – as well as regular meals and drinks. And of course transport from home to centre and back again.
The Jubilee Centre looks after its members. Many will be living on their own with no close family nearby, or in certain cases no family at all. But others who come in to the centre on a very regular basis will have their own (adjacent) family, neighbourhood groups and friends, and they still come in because they value and enjoy the community that the centre provides.
For years the centre has been part-funded by grant from Wiltshire Council. Members pay as well but what comes from Wiltshire Council is vital. But grant funding, a legacy carried over from the days of Kennet District Council isn’t a method of support that the Council (Wiltshire) wishes to entertain going forward. So Marlborough’s Jubilee Centre, along, we understand with the Enablement Hub, formerly New Road Day Centre (which moved to the Marlborough Town Football club premises last October) will, as from the next financial year (starting in April) have their annual grant cut from (in the case of The Jubilee Centre) £30,000 to £15,000. Halved. And nothing the following year.
However, that is designed to cover the just first half of this coming year, and not to give a sudden shock. If this were to cover the entire year the Jubilee Centre would not be able to exist as it currently does. Marlborough’s elderly community would suffer greatly, many members who are still in independent living may be forced into social care – a vastly more expensive option – and an important and valuable element of the members’ routines and daily lives would disappear.
Hopefully this won’t happen as Wiltshire Council will be replacing the grant system with what is described as an ‘Open Framework’, where lunch clubs and friendship groups such as the Jubilee and (former) New Road Day (now ‘Enablement Hub’) centres are made ‘more accountable’ for what they receive.
What are the criteria for accountability? In mid-January notification was sent by Wiltshire to both Centres (and to other friendship groups and luncheon clubs across the County) informing them of the impending change. The notification stated that ‘we (the Council) want to provide more personalised options that benefit those who most need our support’. It went on to detail the criteria by which funding level will be assessed and judged. This comprises:
- Focus on the strengths and potential of people
- Make a positive difference in people’s lives
- Increase choice and control
- Help people develop their life skills
“That’s exactly what we do already and have done since we started” explained Sally Wolfenden, Chair of Trustees at The Jubilee Centre when asked about how the proposed funding change might affect the centre.
“We create a community for our members” she added, explaining that the service they provide to everyone attending is home door to home door. With company, entertainment, meals and friends engagement filling in the time between pick up in the morning and drop off in the afternoon. Transport is part of that service, a vital part.
“We believe that we are providing exactly what Wiltshire Council say they need” stated Sally. The national debate of the cost of Social Care against Health is raging at present and were the Jubilee Centre to have to cut membership, or even close completely, the amount spent in grant or ‘open framework’ support would be dwarfed by the additional cost of the social care needs required even by only a small proportion of the current membership were their daily routines to be taken away. “We are accountable” she said, adding that this had always potentially been so had it been required as a condition of the grant funding process. But it wasn’t.
“We need more members” added Sally when asked about the issues other than immediate funding that face the Centre. “We create independence for our members” she said, adding that the real task for the centre is to reach neighbours, relatives, friends and associates of the gradually ageing people in the Marlborough community. To tell them about the Jubilee Centre so that they can let their relative(s) or friend(s) discover a new lease of life by frequent visits to the Centre, and “give them a new and different purpose in life through the activities with new (and old) friends who also come in on a regular basis”. Adding as an example “Board games is a new activity on Wednesday afternoons, open to young and young at heart (that’s important to attract both new members and new volunteers. Not just more older people crossing the threshold!) and we might even introduce Ma Jong”.
Volunteers are integral to the everyday operation of the centre. As well as becoming involved in the Jubilee Centre community and engaging in activities such as playing board games, they engage members by helping maintain some level of independence for the members, visiting shops, the Post Office, banks and more, and even enabling members to reach these places by wheelchair if necessary. All part of a normal Jubilee Centre day.
The Jubilee Centre is open to any member of Marlborough’s older community but also to those younger as well who could volunteer. “We want people who could help the centre, and could be helped by the centre” Sally noted, emphasising how Jubilee is there for everyone, not just the elderly in the community, but for all and for those of every background and experience.