Manchester fears volunteer crisis

By Jonathan Kalmus, December 2, 2010

Manchester's Federation of Jewish Services is facing a volunteer shortage as local authority budget cuts begin to bite.

The welfare charity operates a network of 250 volunteers in North Manchester, providing extra support for mainly elderly Jews in 200 households every week. But demand is increasing with more people living longer at home and local authorities rolling out tougher criteria on elegibility for residential care funding.

FJS volunteers and carers service manager Juliette Pearce anticipates needing double the volunteer force and is urging more community members to come forward.

"I had a phone call from a local authority this week basically asking us to provide a service so they don't have to pay for it. We have long waiting lists and a lot of families are not getting support."

Pressure on Jewish welfare services in Manchester is particularly acute. The last census showed the 75-plus accounting for 12 per cent of the local Jewish community, nearly double the figure for the wider population.

Last week, a report by the Centre for Social Justice warned of a collapse in the traditional extended family, where the younger generation live further from elderly relatives, resulting in fewer people able to act as carers. It also revealed that the number of elderly people in residential care has halved in 20 years, leading to increased pressures on relatives and friends to provide support. FJS says that "in Manchester and smaller communities, we are witnessing a drift of younger people to the capital, and on aliyah, which will exacerbate the situation in years to come".

Federation director of community services Mark Cunningham will be holding strategy meetings on the volunteer shortage as part of the charity's five-year plan to cope with the financial squeeze.

Last updated: 10:12am, December 3 2010