The riots have depleted an ambulance service that takes dementia patients to day centres after a gang torched one vehicle and badly scorched another.
The damage will cost Age Concern Leicester Shire and Rutland up to £45,000, which it may not be able to raise.
The gang threw a petrol bomb at one of two 17-seat specially-converted vehicles that were among a fleet of 10 vans of varying sizes belonging to the charity.
Chief executive Tony Donovan said users were anxious, confused and worried for their safety with some not wanting to come into day centres today, fearing they had been the gang’s target.
Even if it does raise enough for a converted van, it will take up to three months for the new vehicle to be ready.
Most of the clients are in the critical care banding and find change difficult, said Donovan. Many are so frail that, without the service, they would be in residential care.
“We are all devastated by this mindless act,” he said. “Our clients have taken it all personally because they are used to a particular vehicle. It’s created a lot of anxiety among them.
“We’ve had to restructure everything so clients have been coming in later. The transport manager and care staff are wondering how we will cope with it. We pick up our clients between 9am and 10am and, with their mental health issues, we have to keep to a routine otherwise they become anxious.”
The charity has been given a short-term loan of two smaller council vehicles, bringing its fleet back up to 10, but Donovan said wheelchair fit was tighter, while their smaller size forced drivers to make costly extra journeys. He was also concerned at the long-term cost implications caused by higher insurance premiums, which may force the charity to re-examine services to lower-dependency people.
Donovan praised community support since the attack. Local dairy Kirby & West pledged £20,000, while a landlady has pledged £200 and was encouraging her customers to put in money as well.
Age UK said other local charities were affected by the violence. On Monday, Age UK Croydon’s offices in south London were ransacked, causing £20,000 damage.
Age UK Croydon’s chief executive Stuart Routledge said the damage was so bad the charity has had to cancel nail clinics and its handyman service, both of which are run out of the office.
“People are shocked and traumatised by what happened. Unfortunately we had one member of staff on site as this was happening and we had to guide her away from the office as it was taking place. Having said that staff and volunteers have been supportive and people have been coming in and offering to help.
“Older people have been supportive of us because we’ve had to cancel services but they have been very bewildered by what’s going on.”
As reported yesterday, the riots have prevented approved mental health professionals carrying out assessments under the Mental Health Act 1983 because police were not available to accompany them.
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