HUNDREDS of vulnerable people could be at risk after a mental health charity was forced to axe half of its workforce and ditch vital services.
Mental health charity Hartlepool Mind has had to slash half of its 40-strong workforce in the wake of savage budget cuts.
Many of the staff who have lost their jobs include trained counsellors who helped people deal with a range of issues including alcohol, stress and relationship problems.
And the cuts mean vulnerable people referred to Mind could have to wait up to three months to be assessed and offered help, compared to three days before the cuts.
It comes at a time when Mind has seen unprecedented demand for its services due to the recession, and suicide rates in the town have risen.
Chief executive Iain Caldwell said upwards of 600 people across town will miss out on help.
He said: “If we haven’t got the money we can’t deliver the services – and we haven’t got the money anymore.
“It’s going to have a big impact because there is more need than there’s ever been before because the level of risk is higher than we have ever
Mind, which operates from a base in Tees Street, Hartlepool, lost £128,000 of Government funding when the Working Neighbourhood Fund was axed in its Comprehensive Spending Review.
As a result, it has had to reduce its Primary Care Service, which identifies people most at risk, by half.
Mr Caldwell added: “We had the capacity to screen people within three working days, so if someone was at risk we could immediately identify and help those people.
“Now the waiting list would be about three months. This type of service is needed now more than ever before but it’s when we have got the least resources.”
The charity recently started to keep a “crisis log” of clients classed as most vulnerable after seeing an increase in cases and is being added to almost every day.
Mind’s Changes therapy service for children is to close after losing the contract.
And it will no longer provide its family support counselling service for adults after the contract ended this month.
It is due to start again next April, but Mind will now have to bid against other service providers for the tender.
Mr Caldwell said imposing the cuts had been “devastating” but vowed it would continue to do its best.
People suffering from depression and anxiety can still get help through its Improving Access to Psychological Therapies programme.
He said: “It’s very difficult, you are making people redundant and are unable to provide essential services to people who are most vulnerable.
“We have built up a service which has been successful and made a huge difference to people’s lives, and you just can’t help them any more.
“We are going to continue to provide the services that remain. We get massive outcomes on changing people’s lives. We’ll just have to rebuild Hartlepool Mind over the next few years.”