Hartlepool’s Patch family centre to close in New Year as funding runs dry

Jan Dobson (sitting left) manager of the Patch Family Support Group, with Staff, volunteers and service users.  Picture by FRANK REID
Jan Dobson (sitting left) manager of the Patch Family Support Group, with Staff, volunteers and service users. Picture by FRANK REID
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Famjilies have been left devastated after a vital service is being forced to close due to a lack of funding.

Patch Family Support boss Jan Dobson said the service is “definitely going to close unless there is some miracle”.

Jan Dobson manager of the Patch Family Support Group.  Picture by FRANK REID

Jan Dobson manager of the Patch Family Support Group. Picture by FRANK REID

That was the stark message to staff, volunteers, and clients from Jan at a meeting to discuss the service’s future yesterday.

The service is set to close at the end of March due to a lack of funding.

Some clients have started a petition which they intended to deliver to Hartlepool MP Iain Wright - but Jan does not believe the centre can be saved without a massive cash injection.

Patch offers support to families with children under 11 who are facing a range of challenges.

Unless someone comes forward with £100,000 to give us, it is closing. It is not about doing a cake stall and raising £100. We need a significant amount of money.

Jan Dobson

It also offers help with parenting skills and support, one-to-one support in people’s homes, loans of safety equipment and a healthy eating programme, as well as out-of-school groups.

She told the meeting: “I want this to be quite clear - we are closing,” she said.

“Unless someone comes forward with £100,000 to give us, it is closing. It is not about doing a cake stall and raising £100. We need a significant amount of money.”

With public sector spending cuts continuing to bite, sources of funding had dried up, said Jan: “Everybody has been aware that we have been struggling for money for the last couple of years.

“Because we have been in this position a couple of times, people have thought ‘something will come up,’ but we have now come to the end of what we can do.

“I have been told by the borough council that they categorically do not have any money to put into the service.

“We have been very careful with our money and we have had good reserves, but because the funding has been declining over a number of years, we have had to bite into those reserves. They will last us until the end of March.”

Services would close at the end of February, leaving staff a month to wind up the centre’s affairs.

In the meantime, the focus was on trying to ensure clients continued to receive support: “It has been more emotional than I expected from the families. They truly are worried about what they are going to do,” she said,

“We have got to be practical. We have got to make sure the people who need help get help.”

Patch Family Support, which is used by up to 1,000 people in the town every year, has been active in Hartlepool for 24 years, providing a range of support services to parents and children.

Jan as been its manager since it opened: “This is devastating for everyone,” she said.

“We knew that people would be devastated, but it has been much worse than we expected since we started telling people who use the service that we were going to have to close. People are genuinely frightened about what is going to happen.

“It’s very significant that it will be closing and I think it will have a massive impact on the town.

“I have raised £4million over the years we have been here - but the money is not out there any more.”

Patch is helped by 11 staff members and 18 volunteers, and some of its services have already started to close.

It needs about £180,000 of funding per year, which has proved increasingly difficult to find, and the charity is now coming to the end of its funding reserves.

A spokesman for Hartlepool Borough Council said: “We are aware of the funding difficulties which Patch has faced and we are saddened that it has to close.

“Patch is a very well-respected organisation that has done a great deal of good work across the town over many years supporting local families and children.

“Lack of funding is something which the council is very familiar with as we have suffered significant cuts ourselves, and face a further reduction of about £10million in government grant over the next three years.

“As always, the council will provide support to those families affected and those who have unfortunately lost their jobs, and we will help in whatever way we can, including alternative employment, re-training and benefit entitlement.”

The meeting of those affected is taking place from 10.30am today as they consider their next step.