Row over vital funding for mental health charity

editorial image

HARTLEPOOL Borough Council and the Government are at war over who should pay for a crisis-hit mental health charity that saves lives.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has accused the council of being “short-sighted” in its approach to helping Hartlepool Mind and other voluntary sector groups.

Hartlepool Borough Council was allocated £5m from Government’s Working Neighbourhood Fund (WNF) to distribute to various town groups, but it came to an end last March amid savage national cuts.

Hartlepool Mind, which lost out on £128,000 of WNF money, is facing a funding crisis and has a waiting list of four months.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Email the newsdesk or telephone the newsdesk on (01429) 239380.

It comes as Hartlepool Mind chief executive Iain Caldwell said the impact of just one suicide costs £1m to the taxpayer in costs for police investigations, medical investigations, coroner’s costs, and any impact on surviving family members, including support from social workers and any other services involved.

Mr Caldwell said: “If you know the cuts are coming, it’s about having a robust process in place so you can evaluate the effectiveness of the service.”

Last week Hartlepool borough councillor John Marshall said the branch had saved him from the brink of suicide when health problems became too much to bear.

The Independent St Hilda ward representative said the local authority could look at using some of its reserves to help the “lifeline” charity.

But the council said the original funding for Mind had come from the Government through the WNF and said it would not be feasible to suggest using reserves for help the mental health charity, especially when the council had lost £18.6m, a 25 per cent reduction, in Government grants over the last two years.

However, a DCLG spokesman today hit back at those claims and said: “The Government has provided a fair and progressive funding settlement for councils that protect frontline services and shield the most vulnerable.

“Councils have challenging decisions to make around how they prioritise spending, but the Government is clear that councils must resist any temptation to pass on disproportionate savings to the voluntary sector.

“In their approach to budget-setting, the best councils are showing that they understand that a strong, thriving voluntary sector is more important now than ever and could be the key to providing high quality, good value services to their residents.

“But this is not the case everywhere.

“Councils that are failing to recognise the importance of the sector are being short-sighted in their approach.”

However, a council spokesman said: “Over the last two years the Government has reduced our grant by 25 per cent and we have made representations to express our bitter disappointment.

“Despite the savage reduction in Government funding, the council has still managed to significantly support the voluntary sector, but given the scale of cuts, it was inevitable that we would face some very difficult decisions over the services we were able to continue to support.”