Mental health charity is victim of spending cuts

A LIFELINE for people in the depths of despair is facing a funding crisis due to Government spending cuts which could put lives at risk.

Hartlepool mental health charity Mind helps 1,500 people with personal problems each year – many classed as a "suicide risk".

With unemployment figures rocketing and debt problems rife, the service has seen a sharp increase in need in recent months.

But now its budget has been slashed putting some of the town's most vulnerable people in "danger".

A campaign has now been launched in a bid to save the vital service, a lifeline to many families.

The Government's Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) saw funding of 140,000 a year axed.

The cash is distributed by Hartlepool Borough Council under the 5.5m Working Neighbourhoods Fund to help people with mental health issues get back into work.

But that funding to the council has been scrapped.

And 45,000 NHS funding to screen people referred to Mind is at risk, meaning clients will have to wait up to 16 weeks to be assessed and over 1,000 will miss out as to the service will be reduced.

Eleven of Mind's 40 staff members will lose their jobs unless the funding is found, and another 10 posts are seriously at risk.

Bosses have launched an internet petition as part of a campaign to raise awareness and public support.

Chief executive Iain Caldwell said: "If we don't get the social prescribing funding we won't be able to screen everyone.

"Over Christmas we were dealing with people who were attempting suicide and we were able to pick them up and get them into the crisis team or other services. That service wouldn't be available.

"The level of suicide risk is actually increasing and the level of services to detect and intervene is being reduced which obviously is a very dangerous situation to be in."

Hartlepool Mind delivers services to 1,500 people a year. Last year it provided emotional support to almost 1,000 people, including 342 who started a new healthy activity to feel less lonely and helped 104 people find work.

Mr Caldwell added: "About 90 per cent of people we help are just every day people who don't have long-term mental health problems.

"These are people with relationship problems, job problems and just stresses of everyday living.

"I think people won't realise the impact until April but it might be too late then if we don't protect these services."

Mind has offices in Tees Street and Lowthian Road, Hartlepool, and does outreach work in children's centres.

Other services it provides for free include psychological therapies, alcohol treatment, social and family support, child counselling, anger management and support for long-term mental health problems.

The Government's public spending review has seen the biggest cuts in decades with welfare, councils and police all hit.

The petition for Hartlepool Mind can be found at www.petitiononline.co.uk