Plea for support as handyman project faces cash crisis

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A HANDYMAN scheme that helps hundreds of old folk every year with vital odd jobs around the home could be axed unless the community get behind the project.

Dacorum Age Concern has put out a plea in a bid to save its ever-popular handyman scheme, which is facing a cash crisis following government cutbacks.

The not-for-profit scheme costs around £58,000 to run each year - around £50,000 of the bill was met by funding from Herts County Council but that pot of cash is no longer on offer.

Last year 1,007 jobs were carried out in the community by the project’s three part-time workers and 22 volunteers. Tasks range from changing a light bulb so that an elderly person is not left in the dark, putting up hand rails to prevent nasty falls and installing life-saving smoke alarms.

Scheme manager Doug Dews, who has been in charge of the project, launched in 1996, for 12 years, said: “These people sometimes don’t see anybody for weeks - both of my technicians are larger than life characters, they meet people and cheer them up. Most of the volunteers say to me that they spend longer speaking to the clients then it takes to do the job.”

Dwindling funding meant the charity, which runs two vans that will soon need replacing and has also been hit in the pocket by soaring diesel costs, had to introduce charges for the service two years ago. Jobs start at £15 but the cash this brings in is no where close to the total amount needed.

Community fundraiser Michelle Law said if the scheme has to be closed it would leave people unsafe in their homes. “They wouldn’t get a smoke alarm fitted, they wouldn’t know who to contact to get a grab rail fitted,” she said.

There are around 33,000 elderly people in Dacorum and with an increasing aging population that figure is set to rise.

Dacorum Age Concern is appealing for people to donate, fundraise, pledge legacies and help in anyway possible. Call 01442 259049.

“No matter how small, it will help towards the running costs of the scheme,” said Doug.