HELP service under threat

A SENIOR councillor says it would be a “tragedy” if a service aimed at getting people active is axed due to a lack of funding.

The Hartlepool Exercise for Life Programme (HELP), which aims to encourage and motivate people to lead a more healthy lifestyle, is used by hundreds of people every year.

It involves a 10-week course of activities including water mobility, yoga, pilates, chair mobility and specially designed circuit training sessions.

But its future funding from April next year is unclear.

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson, who met recently to discuss the programme, praised staff for their efforts and called on officers to explore new funding streams.

The programme is aimed at those with diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease and a range of other conditions.

People are given an individual programme that best suits their condition.

A council report said: “The primary aim of the programme is to encourage and motivate individuals to lead a more active lifestyle in the long term which in turn helps them to improve their overall health and well being.”

Over the past three years, 1,378 people have completed a full 10-week course and of those 50 per cent have carried on exercising regularly.

Between April 2010 and March this year, the HELP team received 840 referrals from a range of sources.

Figures show that 323 people completed the 10-week programme, comfortably reaching the 300 target.

That figure was up from 308 the year before.

Coun Thompson said: “It would be an absolute tragedy if this scheme was to end due to lack of funding.

“Every avenue has to be explored to make sure that this does continue.

“I congratulate the team on what has been achieved.”

A report by Pat Usher, the council’s sport and recreation manager, said the HELP scheme provides an “important and successful service to the town”.

But it added: “The continuation of this service in 2012 – 2013 onwards remains in doubt unless further funding can be sourced.”

At the moment, 50 per cent of the programme costs is provided by NHS Hartlepool but future funding remains “cloudy” due to plans to revamp the NHS.

The cardiac rehabilitation part of the programme was funded by Working Neighbourhoods Funding until the March this year, but officers had to find funding from elsewhere for the remainder of this financial year, after that was scrapped.

Organisations involved in HELP include NHS Hartlepool, North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, MIND, Hartlepool Voluntary Development Agency (HVDA) and the council.