A VITAL support service for disabled shoppers in Wigan is facing drastic changes as the reality of funding cuts begins to bite.
Shopmobility, which provides help to enable disabled people to shop in Wigan and Leigh town centres, is having funding withdrawn by Wigan Council as part of swingeing cuts across the authority.
Wigan Metro is ending its £68,000 support to the service in March as part of £55 million savings over the next three years.
Shopmobility, which has offices in Leigh and Mesnes Terrace, in Wigan town centre, has now been forced to reduce its opening hours and jobs look set to be axed as it begins of review of staff numbers.
The service currently has 10 part-time members of staff as well as 39 volunteers across the borough – but desperately needs more people to help out.
Shopmobility manager David Eccles said: “We’re having to change our hours so we can prepare for March when local authority funding will stop.
“There will have to be changes in our levels of staff so we’ll be looking for more volunteers to help out.
“The service will be relying entirely on the money raised by our charity shop and through the fees to our users.”
The new opening times for Shopmobility’s Wigan office are 9.30am to 3.30pm from Monday to Saturday.
The Leigh office is unaffected and remains open from 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday.
However opening hours will be further reduced in March when council funding stops. The service is then expected to be open for five hours a day.
Shopmobility, which opened a charity shop in Market Street, Wigan last year, is open to anyone with limited mobility, temporary or permanent.
Registered members can use powered scooters as well as electric or manual wheelchairs.
And 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.
Shopmobility is now staging an online poll to allow users to have their say on the future opening hours of the service.
For more information, visit www.wiganboroughshopmobility.co.uk
To volunteer for Shopmobility, call the Wigan office on 01942 776070 or Leigh on 01942 777985.