Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Standing up for Farncombe Day Centre

When you care about something, it's hard to let go. I just cannot let go of the Farncombe Day Centre, because I fear for its long-term future.

When I first became aware of the budget shortfalls I was quite shocked that measures had not already been put in place. My first suggestion was to start engaging more with the local community, to create a sense of pride and ownership. My hope was that by showing more people in Farncombe and Godalming what the day centre can provide for older people, it would generate more regular users of the centre, more volunteers and more donations. I also suggested joining Twitter, Facebook and setting up a new website - all of which would make the day centre more 'visible', but also more competitive. We all know that every pound donated to charity is someone's hard-earned cash, and the day centre had to show that it had earned your support and generosity.

Grants from the Council and Age UK had been slashed. New, harsh rental and facilities agreements have been implemented, ensuring that the day centre will pay its way to the council and council tax payers. The end result is a gloomy shortfall in operating budget. The day centre management team for all its other faults, have at least been prudent with savings. Excellent fundraising by the Friends of Farncombe Day Centre and some generous legacies have swelled the savings accounts. But no amount of shuffling funds around can disguise the fact that every time an older person attends the centre, it costs £16.

Think about it. £16 a day to provide a warm, safe environment for an older person. It hardly seems a lot. But that amount is set to rise, with the implementation of the new, tough financial regime imposed by Waverley Borough Council.

Now, I'm not suggesting that the day centre should be entirely funded by grants from public funds. In fact, I'm suggesting that the Farncombe Day Centre should be a social enterprise. A hub. A community space. A partnership. A place where diverse groups of users are welcomed to the centre, contributing to the revenue, generating more users and volunteers, a thriving place. And all this making sure that Farncombe Day Centre will continue to provide high quality engagements with older people who enjoy a hot meal, companionship and activities.

The ideal situation would be for the day centre management team to cover the operational costs (including staffing) through a sound, revenue-generating business plan. Grants should be applied for, to provide diverse programmes of activities. I also see opportunities for a food bank, an after school club, or other much-needed community facilities. Evening and weekends could also offer opportunities for small business or social enterprise organisations, groups or societies to meet. By offering this meeting space, the day centre would be increasing its network of partners, who in turn will be generating their own revenue streams, some of which will flow back to the day centre, creating a mutually beneficial, sustainable operating environment.

My case study on the long term sustainability of the Farncombe Day Centre is available by email

My previous posts on Farncombe Day Centre:

Disclaimer: The author was a member of the Farncombe Day Centre Executive Committee from February to December 2013, and was asked to step down following a disagreement with the Chairperson of the Committee, relating to the budget shortfalls and identifying such publicly.


  1. Hiring the premises out for other activities when not normally in use sounds like a great idea.

    1. Yes, indeed. There are occasional after hours users, but it would be useful to have a committed partner/s regularly using the centre, being successful and generating income.
      Thanks for your comment x.

  2. Very sad that you were asked to step down because of a lack of vision from the chairperson. For any organisation to tap into local, able, driven and informative volunteers is a blessing so I am very sorry for you and the organisation that they let personal feelings impinge on the good for the day centre.

    I am not a fan of the current Gov and despite being a good Guildford girl have never been a Tory! (this is not a political post!) but I do remember the banter from David Cameron was Big Society. The plan or at least the voiced plan was to embrace our local communities. Getting people to think about how we as individuals could get the most from and to within our Communities. The cynic in me says that really that was a shift in responsibility from Gov to the community in preparation for the big financial squeeze.

    Whilst my home County is affluent there are plenty that are not and should be able to tap into organisations such as the day centre. The day centre does not have to be simply aimed at the 50+ bracket but could be developed into so much more, as you described. Covering the true age demographics of the local population. Perhaps owned and run by the community that it serves.

    Identifying shortfalls in budget is never going to be welcomed publicly, and perhaps the chair of the organisation felt that it indicated a failure. It does not, but engaging the public knowledge of the local community would have been a great step increasing awareness and for people to pull together to get the facility working with and for the community.

    1. Thank you, Julie, for your very considered comment.

      You have hit the nail on the head regarding community responsibilities.

      And you are right too, that the Committee thought I was criticising them one and all for failure. I did criticise but I also brought ideas and energy, money, sponsorship, IT skills, business skills, to help move things along.

      I wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

    2. You are welcome Lesley. I agree you wanted to be part of the solution, but I truly do not believe that you are part of the problem. It is that stubborn, proudness that exists within my fellow County folk, that refuse to the point of detriment to accept help, because it is seen as a weakness. Very sad that such behaviour on the part of the committee is causing the day centre such harm, when all they want to do is bury their head in the sand and protect the centre. A very sad day indeed.

  3. I totally understand that you cannot let go...
    I do hope that solutions will be agreed on and recognized as the way to go by all. xx


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