Cuts affect blind people

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BLIND people in Grantham “will lose their lifeline” if the county council goes ahead with plans to cut a free transport service.

Every fortnight, the 30 members of the Grantham Social Club for the Blind travel to the Sandon Road Community Centre on a TransLinc bus.

But news that Lincolnshire County Council will cut funding for their transport at the end of March has sent ripples of fear through members who rely on their outings to socialise.

Heather Quann is a volunteer who works with the group.

She said: “We feel that someone in Lincoln is looking at things and saying ‘we’ll cross that off, that doesn’t matter’. But they’re forgetting that they’ll be old one day.

“We feel we’re regarded as totally unimportant. Well, I think it’s extremely important that members have somewhere to go. They’re all worried now. Being partially-sighted, if their family can’t take them out they don’t go anywhere. It’s a bit of independence, it’s incredibly important.”

Mrs Quann has vowed to fight the council’s plans by launching a petition to hand to the county council and by lobbying Grantham MP Nick Boles.

If the worst comes to the worst, members will have to pay for taxis to take them to meetings, but that is an added cost Mrs Quann believes many can’t afford.

She said: “The bus picks up everyone and goes as far as Denton and Ropsley. All the members are in their 70s and 80s so money is a problem, and you have to think about wheelchairs.

“We have no funding available. All our funding is what we raise through subsidies and through fund-raising ourselves.”

Councillor Ron Oxby, executive support councillor for adult social care, said: “The county council, like other authorities, is facing funding cuts to all service areas and this includes adult social care. Our priority must be to protect the most vulnerable people and the frontline services that help towards this. As a consequence savings have to be made in other areas.

“Activity centre transport contracts currently cost over £83,000 per year which we cannot keep maintaining in the current financial climate.”

The county council is advising groups to consider alternatives such as Grantham Area Community Transport, an independent voluntary car scheme (Tel: 01476 577407).

Another alternative is CallConnect (www.lincsinterconnect.com).