Isolation fears for Peterborough’s disabled after shopping scheme funding cut

Shopmobility volunteers Roy Harris and Molly Wright at Queensgate EMN-190928-181517009
Shopmobility volunteers Roy Harris and Molly Wright at Queensgate EMN-190928-181517009
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Fears that disabled people in Peterborough could become isolated have been raised due to the city council ending its funding for a shopping scheme.

The cash-strapped authority is planning to end its £14,000 a year subsidy for Shopmobility which provides wheelchairs and scooters for disabled shoppers in the city centre.

The council said it hoped Disability Peterborough, which runs the service from Queensgate, could find “alternative funds” such as sponsorship, or by increasing its annual £10 charge. But regular user Debbie Holland (55) has warned that any impact could have ramifications for isolated people. The 55-year-old, who has osteoarthritis and neuropathy, visits the city centre twice a week from her home in Werrington.

She said: “Shopmobility gives me freedom. I ring in ahead and they bring a scooter to meet me at the bus station.

“I can then meander and stop. Other times I have appointments I can go to.

“Without Shopmobility I would struggle to get there, I’m worried about will happen now. Some people only speak to other humans when they get given the key.

“£14,000 is a good investment with people going into town and spending money.”

Queensgate has confirmed its subsidy for the scheme will continue, although it declined to say how much that is.

Sandie Burns, CEO at Disability Peterborough, said the organisation understood the council’s funding pressures but that it had “asked for clarification with regards to their duty to consult and equality impact assessments.”

She added: “The Shopmobility service it is not at imminent risk of closure as we have been very careful to build up financial reserves to cover the possibility of funding withdrawal, however, these reserves are of course limited.”