Elderly social club in St John’s Wood under threat

A social club for the elderly and disabled – which was co-founded by Esther Rantzen 47 years ago – is under threat after it lost �9,000 in funding from Westminster Council.

The council took the decision to remove the funding to the Out And About Club, based at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood Road, St John’s Wood. Funding will remain in place until the end of the year.

The money is used to fund three minibuses to transport the club’s 45 members, who are from all faith backgrounds, to and from the club twice a month.

Synagogue director Caroline Bach said: “We are very worried about it. This club is a lifeline for many who attend it. Taking away the funding would severely affect the running of the club.”

Club organiser Jenny Nathan, of Oakhill Park, Hampstead, has been involved with the club for 30 years.

She said: “The club provides friendship as well as a community to look out for one and another’s welfare.

“Men on their own, in particular, find it difficult to make friends and get depressed.

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“One recent member, who lost his sister, said it was a ‘lifeline’ for him.

“What we have done up to now is raise money for the entertainment, an annual trip, and annual dinner.

“Now we will have to try to apply to trust funds and find other ways of raising the money.”

Cllr Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour Group at Westminster Council, lambasted the move.

He said: “For many elderly people the Out And About Club is a vital lifeline for support and communication.

“The club has taken 47 years to develop but Westminster’s cruel decision to cut the grant will make it hard for these activities to continue.

“Last year the council underspent its adult social care budget by a massive �5.6million, so there is no reason to withdraw the �9,000 grant.”

A spokeswoman for Westminster Council said it would replace the current transport arrangements with subsidised transport.

She said: “It is of paramount importance that we deliver services of a high standard for vulnerable residents while ensuring we also stick to our commitment to saving money across all service areas.

“We recognise that accessible transport facilities are a highly valued service for older residents, so from December the council will launch a new community transport service to provide subsided community cars and other vehicles.

“This new service will enable local people to continue to access community groups, so they can to lead a high quality of life with regular opportunities to socialise.”