The “lifeline” shopmobility service in two North Lanarkshire towns is to close later this month due to a funding shortfall.
Officials from the Health and Wellness Hub charity announced this week that their mobility hubs in Coatbridge and Motherwell, which loan scooters and wheelchairs for disabled people visiting and completing errands around the two town centres, will shut on October 28.
Devastated service users have launched a campaign to save the “vital” service, saying its loss will be “a disaster” which will rob them of their independence; while both local MSPs are also lending their support as they seek alternative funding or assistance to preserve the service.
Shopmobility members began receiving letters this week explaining that the service will close in three weeks’ time, with the Health and Wellness Hub saying that it is “no longer financially viable”; and its three staff members have been served with redundancy notices.
The service across the two bases, at Exchange Place in Coatbridge and Merry Street in Motherwell, costs around £64,000 per year and has been operating since April at a loss of £5000 a month.
Officials from the charity – which has run the service since 2019, taking it over from previous operator North Lanarkshire Council – say the cost is “unsustainable and is impacting on [our] other services”.
Service manager Kelly Stewart told Lanarkshire Live: “We have explored every possible option to continue the service and it is simply not viable.
“This was a very difficult decision to make as we know the benefits the service brings to our members and local communities. I would like to thank everyone involved for their commitment in running the service over the last three years.”
A statement from the Health and Wellness Hub added that the “difficult decision” followed “a comprehensive review of operations and the financial situation over the last year”, adding: “All possible options for running the service have been considered.”
Fulton MacGregor, the Coatbridge MSP, visited his local facility on hearing the news and is writing alongside Motherwell counterpart Clare Adamson to North Lanarkshire Council, NHS Lanarkshire and the Scottish Government “to highlight how harmful this closure will be and to ask what support or assistance they can provide to retain the service”.
He told Lanarkshire Live: “I’m very disappointed by the prospect of the Shopmobility service coming to an end – those with disabilities often already experience enough hardship without it now being harder for them to access places on the Main Street such as the health centre, optician, pharmacy or shops.
“This is very concerning; I’ve spoken with constituents who are absolutely devastated by this decision and will be truly worse off without this service in place.”
He added: “I know this decision hasn’t been taken lightly and has transpired due to a lack of funding; I am hopeful that a resolution can be found to ensure that those who need to access mobility equipment to make use of the town centre will be able to do so.
“I will do all I can to save this service – given the comparatively minimal sums of money involved it would be a pretty sad situation for local disabled people if agencies can’t pull together to retain something that is so important to many.”
Charity representatives are currently speaking to other local organisations with the aim of finding a use for the service’s stock of mobility equipment, and are also looking into transferring items to existing service users at a reduced cost.
Shopmobility users are planning a protest at the Coatbridge hub next week and have set up a Facebook page in support of their campaign – and would like to see North Lanarkshire Council resume responsibility for funding and running the vital service.
A spokesperson for the local authority said: “The council helped the charity to try and source alternative funding to allow the Shopmobility service to continue, and we are disappointed it is closing.
“It was previously run by Town Centre Activities, an arms-length organisation managed by the council. With significant budget savings to be made for the year ahead, the council is not in a position to provide funding for this service.”
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