END OF AN ERA: Anne Henderson and Neville Singleton outside the base in Barnard Castle
END OF AN ERA: Anne Henderson and Neville Singleton outside the base in Barnard Castle

A CHARITY which has helped thousands of elderly and disabled people across the dale for more than 20 years is to close.
The Teesdale Disability Access Forum will close the doors of its base in Market Place, Barnard Castle, for a final time in mid-May.
The charity was originally established to tackle the lack of dropped kerbs on pavements and roads and to help organisations ensure they conformed to measures contained in the 2004 Disability Discrimination Act.
Its services grew to include a dale-wide loan service for mobility aids such as wheelchairs and zimmer frames, providing cancer care kits, organising armchair exercises and a Thursday afternoon club plus projects for those affected by incontinence and dementia.
Founder member Neville Singleton said: “We tried to cover everything to help people in old age, who had a disability or health issues.”
One of the main reasons for the charity's closure has been the impact of Covid-19 on its services. All group meetings have ceased and while the loan service has continued, lack of space has hindered the cleaning regime required for mobility aids. Mr Singleton added: “Originally, after our last Big Lottery grant ended in December, we were going to hand over the reins to others to continue on a smaller scale.
“But after the pandemic started, our services were hit badly and it was decided that our services could no longer operate in this environment.”
He said the charity had achieved much of what it had set out to since a first meeting with members of Teesdale District Council led to a tour of Barnard Castle to highlight the access difficulties faced by the disabled and those with mobility problems.
“We have always done out best – even during lockdowns people have been able to get in touch with us,” said Mr Singleton.
Anne Henderson, the charity's chief officer for 17 years, said it had been a privilege to help run the access forum.
“We have helped thousands of people and their families in times of need.
“The ravages of ill-health and getting older take their toll and we have been able to help many people make everyday life more comfortable.
“I put our success down to the fantastic team of committed and dedicated trustees and volunteers who have worked tirelessly to provide services that can make a difference to help our community lead the best life they can.”
She added: “I have so many memories of the lovely people I have met and helped. It has been a privilege.”
As the access forum winds down, it has a selection of walkers and rollators to give away as well as twiddlemuffs and a selection of books for people living with dementia available from the shop, which is open Monday to Thursday, 9.30am to noon.
Once the charity has closed, Mr Singleton plans to continue running the mobility aid loan service as a community organisation from facilities in Cockfield.
To contact him about the loan service, call 01388 718658.