Funding cut puts lifeline at risk
SHOCKED users of a lifeline community group were told its meeting hours will be slashed because of a cash shortfall – raising concerns it could be axed altogether.
There were emotional scenes at the weekly St Blaise Meet and Greet, at Alexandra Hall, St Blazey, as members were told that lack of grant funding will mean they will only be able to meet twice monthly from September.
Run by community interest company (CIC) Rural Community Links Projects, it is there to support anyone with possible mental health issues and aims to reduce isolation.
The change has been prompted because the CIC has failed to find the £2,500 funding it needs to pay for staff, expenses, training and venues.
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Member Linda Barbery, 52, from St Blazey, said they were making a desperate appeal for a backer.
She was referred to the group by a counsellor after visiting her doctor. Mrs Barbery has a history of self-harm after ill health forced her into retirement. "I felt absolutely desperate," said the former carer and shelter warden.
"If it was not for the group I don't think I would have stopped at cutting my arms; I know I would have gone on to much worse. This group saved my life."
She said groups like Meet and Greet save the NHS "a fortune" because, without them, some members could be "inpatients in a mental hospital".
Heather May, from Biscovey, 67, has suffered from depression since she was 18 years old. She said if the group goes it would be "devastating".
"So many people really need the support of the group, there's disabled people to people suffering with nerves," she said.
James Mansfield, 36, from St Austell added: "The Government wants there to be more care in the community but allows groups such as this to fall by the wayside."
Group manager Anna Lutey said the group currently has up to 20 members attending and it is open to people from all walks of life.
"We will be very upset if the group has to cut back or even, in the worst case scenario, finish," she said. "When we broke the news there were a lot of tears."
Glynis Meloy, manager of Rural Community Links Projects, said the same problem is facing an elderly group in Fraddon.
The problem has arisen because the CIC – which was originally funded through the Lottery – no longer meets the criteria for a grant from NHS Kernow.
Funding was reduced last year and this year the group is unlikely to receive anything.
"We know money is tight but if anybody is thinking 'what can we do to help?' all we ask is to put our case to your town or village council for them to consider us if there is any money going around," she said.
NHS Kernow said it appreciates the important role these groups play but that it constantly reviews the criteria for grants.
A spokesperson said funding applications must now come from group members to ensure "greater accountability for the money that is available to help people set up their own support networks".
She said NHS Kernow had consulted extensively about the changes with the people who use the services.
"We met last week with organisations to explain the changes and to offer help to their groups to become more independent."
Anyone who needs extra help will be provided with it, she added.
If you can help the group, call Glynis Meloy on 01726 821858.