A VITAL support service for disabled shoppers in Wigan has been saved from the axe.
Shopmobility, which provides scooters and wheelchairs for town centre shoppers with mobility problems, was under threat after Wigan Council ended its financial support as part of budget cuts.
Now the mobility service has been granted charity status and is embarking on a fund-raising drive to ensure it can continue working in the borough.
General manager David Eccles said: “It was devastating to lose two thirds of our income through local authority cuts, namely our annual grant of £97,000. But Shopmobility will not let the people of Wigan borough down.
“Shopmobility is about people and we rely heavily on our volunteers to help in many ways to keep the service running for our community. Our service is well used by individuals who experience limited mobility. It gives them independence to shop and socialise in Wigan and Leigh town centres.
“The past few months have been difficult, especially for our long serving staff. They have accepted redundancies, reduced hours and reduced pay rates in order to bring expenditure in line with income and ensure the service can continue.
“Two trustees of our charity Adrian Hardy and Bill Badrock have been central in restructuring and developing a new Shopmobility registered charity to carry on providing the service to our community.”
Shopmobility, which has offices in Leigh and Mesnes Terrace, in Wigan town centre, has been forced to reduce its opening hours since funding was axed.
The service is open to anyone with limited mobility, temporary or permanent. Registered members can use powered scooters as well as electric or manual wheelchairs. Its children’s service gives youngsters with mobility problems the chance to use smaller powered scooters and electric or manual wheelchairs.
Volunteers also accompany blind and partially sighted people during shopping trips as part of Shopmobility’s Sighted Guider Service. Registered clients can loan a wheelchair for up to eight weeks at a time.
As part of gaining charity status, the Lancashire Hotpots Group are now patrons of the Shopmobility scheme.
The charity joined the Hotpots as they sang on Saturday, March 12 at Wigan Food and Drink Festival in the Galleries Shopping Centre. Limited edition t-shirts and posters autographed by the Hotpots are still available from Shopmobility.
The Shopmobility Friends Group has also been set up to help with the charity’s fund-raising.
If you would like to donate, volunteer or become a trustee of the charity, contact David Eccles on 01942 777985 or visit the website www.wiganboroughshopmobility.org.uk