Age UK West Cumbria has been forced to hike prices for its services amid funding shortages and the anticipated impact of Brexit.

Service user Bill Ferguson, 73, was horrified to learn the cost of his six-weekly toenail-cutting appointments was rising from £14 to £20 - a 43 per cent increase.

Mr Ferguson has been using the service for four or five years and said the price had never risen so steeply before.

But chief executive Andy Todman said the charity had been forced to stop subsidising the service, and others like private day support and activities, and handyman services, to stay sustainable.

He added that a drop in charity shop income, reductions in NHS and adult social care funds, and the fact that Brexit would reduce grant-funding sources available, meant the charity’s auditors had advised that it must change its approach.

Mr Todman said: “Age UK West Cumbria has held down its prices for a number of years and has subsidised services through the use of both its reserves and cross subsidy from unrestricted income sources such as its charity shop income.

“However, the charity now has to operate on a full cost recovery basis for all its services as it can no longer afford to subsidise service provision.

“As a charity delivering services to some of the most vulnerable older and disabled people in West Cumbria We see first-hand the impact service and funding cuts to statutory services are having, plus the combined impact of increasing demand, means testing, tightening eligibility criteria and welfare reform. Age UK West Cumbria is working hard to mitigate the impact of the reductions in services and increasing costs by helping our older and disabled people access more of their benefit entitlements.”

Mr Todman said the changing face of the high street posed challenges for charity shops, leading to the closure of the charity’s Maryport shop in 2017, and its Workington and Whitehaven shops last year.

The charity is now charging clients the full cost of the services it provides directly.

But Mr Todman said it was keen to help maximise their income by checking they received their full benefit entitlement. In its last year, the charity helped older people in the area access an extra £1.856 million in weekly benefits by carrying out 1,180 checks.

Age UK nationally says there are 1.9 million pensioners living below the poverty line, despite £3.5 billion of benefits going unclaimed.

Latest government figures show there were more than 33,000 over-65s in West Cumbria in 2011, of whom 15,000 were over 75.

Mr Ferguson, of Parton, has diabetes and must take extra care to avoid potential infections. He sought a nail-cutting service when he found himself unable to cut his own nails without nicking his skin. He had turned to the charity as NHS appointments were too far apart for his needs.

Now his is concerned people who cannot afford the increased cost could be forced to put extra pressure on already-stretched NHS services.

He said: “The more pressure people can take off the NHS the better it is for the service and for the patients who really need the money spent on them.

"The only alternative is the NHS and they're inundated. By using private system and paying for it we're helping the NHS keep its money for those who actually need it."

Mr Todman said he hoped people who could not afford the extra £6 per appointment could continue to use the service with reduced regularity to spread the cost.

He also urged anyone who had not yet checked their benefit entitlement to contact the charity.

For help to find out if you are receiving your full benefit entitlements, visit any Age UK West Cumbria branch or call the national advice line on 08443 843 843.