A Newcastle dementia charity has been forced to cancel services that provide a lifeline for people with the illness after its minibus was damaged by thieves and put out of use.
Silverline Memories on Kirkwood Drive in Kenton, which supports more than 160 people living with dementia, said members have been unable to get to the centre after the bus was damaged over the Easter weekend.
The heartless thieves are reported to have stolen the spare tyre and damaged the fixings in the process while the van was parked behind the centre some time between April 5 and April 11.
The charity, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, said service users rely on the bus to pick them up from their homes and take them to the Kenton activity centre.
However, as a result of the damage, volunteers have been unable to operate the bus safely which has led to services being cancelled. The charity now faces a £300 bill to repair the bus which will be paid out of charity reserves and donations.
Sandra Coulter, chief executive of Silverline Memories, said: “There has been a lot of anger about the theft from group members.
“Today (April 12) was particularly hard as we had to cancel our carer support group, which is a lifeline for some, and deal with the disappointment.
“People don’t realise just how much our service users rely on the minibus, and just what the impact is when they choose to damage it. We were only able to buy the bus thanks to those who voted for us in the People’s Projects in 2017, resulting in the National Lottery giving us the funds to purchase it.
“We have to find the ongoing funds to run and maintain the bus, but we always manage knowing just how important it is. People with dementia can often really struggle on public transport and simply could not access our support in any other way than on the minibus.
“Even our drivers are volunteers, and they have been really frustrated at not being able to do their pick up and drop off runs.”
The charity said it has reported the incident to the police and provided CCTV. Northumbria Police said they have launched an investigation and are urging anyone with information to come forward.
A force spokeswoman said: “Police are investigating a suspected theft after a spare tyre was taken from a minibus.