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Crisis talks begin in rescue bid for Off the Record counselling service

Counsellor Matt Gettins, talking to a client at Off The Record, Leigh Park Havant. 
Off The Record provides counselling for young people in Havnat and Portsmouth.
Picture: Allan Hutchings (120641-714)

Counsellor Matt Gettins, talking to a client at Off The Record, Leigh Park Havant. Off The Record provides counselling for young people in Havnat and Portsmouth. Picture: Allan Hutchings (120641-714)

A LAST-ditch attempt will be made today to help secure a counselling charity’s future.

Paula Riches, vice-chairwoman of Off The Record, will meet Portsmouth City Council once again to try to get a £10,000 grant the charity desperately needs to as part of its bid to survive.

Earlier this week Ms Riches said the charity could not go on after being awarded only half of the £20,000 funding it wanted from the city council.

Last night the governing board members of the charity – which has offices in Fratton and Leigh Park – met to thrash out a way forward.

Peter Mills, the chairman, said decisions were made but they would not be announced until the outcome was known of Ms Riches’ meeting.

He said the board has worked out it needs a minimum of £80,000 for the next financial year to stay afloat.

So far, £25,000 is in the kitty.

The extra £10,000 from the city council would be a boost, but not solve the problem, he said.

‘We don’t want to get fixated on the £10,000,’ said Mr Mills.

‘Yes that would be an important step in the right direction.’

Mr Mills confirmed that both the Havant and Portsmouth side of the charity were under threat.

He said: ‘We run Off The Record as a single body.

‘If we can’t raise sufficient funds to continue it will be the whole organisation that will be in hazard.

‘The whole service is under threat.’

He said the charity’s funding streams included statutory authority grants, donations from small charities and cash from bigger trust funds.

He added: ‘We have a variety of bids we have submitted just recently but they could take several months.’

Every year around 7,000 young people pick up the phone or knock on the door of Off The Record branches in search of help for problems such as depression or bullying.

The charity has been running for 35 years.

The organisation won the prestigious Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service three years ago.

But, despite increasing demand for counselling, its budget has dwindled from a high of around £200,000 in the mid-noughties.

Mr Mills later added: ‘Charities generally are having a difficult time and have done so for the last two or three years.

‘The economic crisis has impacted on charities as well as everybody else.

‘There’s less money for grants.

‘Altogether we see over 3,000 people in a year.

‘That’s 3,000 youngsters with many different problems, often coming from disadvantaged areas.

‘We don’t want to give up on them. We are most certainly not giving up.’

 

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