A LIFELINE service for people in the depths of despair is looking forward to a brighter 2013 after a revamp in the way it is allocated funding.
The Mail reported in January last year that mental health charity Hartlepool and East Durham Mind was facing a funding crisis after £128,000 of annual funding was axed in the Government’s Spending Review.
The number of people in desperate need of the service is increasing week-on-week, with a 15 per cent increase in users in the run-up to the festive season alone.
It saw 220 a month between October and December, compared to between 140 and 180 a month in the same period last year.
But although the number of users is rocketing due to a range of issues, including debt and unemployment, the hike in users is actually beneficial to the service as it has changed the way it is funded.
The new contract, called Improving Access To Psychological Therapies (IAPT), means the more referrals Mind gets, the more money it is allocated.
The new method also means there are no waiting times and the service is expanding by taking on five more staff.
Chief executive Iain Caldwell said: “Things are definitely improving. We are recruiting and expanding. It’s looking very positive for us and the new contract is a better scheme for us.
“We can help people in a faster time now so we can respond to more people.”
He said there had been a steady increase of service users over the past two months, with higher than average referrals from GPs.
Mr Caldwell said common problems people are facing include debt, unemployment, redundancies and forthcoming benefits changes and although there was a decline around Christmas week due to reduced access to GPs, he expected the numbers to rise again in January.
Mr Caldwell added: “It’s common to see an increase around this time of year because people find things difficult as they might not have enough money, or because they see people positive and happy, or the festive time could be an anniversary of a loved one passing away.”
He added that the service has helped with emergency housing over Christmas, as well as helping people to get access to food parcels.