Lifeline for Portsmouth and Havant charity left under threat by funding cuts

CASH HELP Off the Record counselling service has received a cash boost. Pictured is counsellor Debbie Smith at their headquarters. Picture: Allan Hutchings (132422-207)
CASH HELP Off the Record counselling service has received a cash boost. Pictured is counsellor Debbie Smith at their headquarters. Picture: Allan Hutchings (132422-207)
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AN UNDER-THREAT counselling service has been thrown a lifeline after being pledged another batch of funds.

Off the Record, which has offices in Portsmouth and Havant, is being given £10,000 by Portsmouth City Council and the city’s Clinical Commissioning Group in April towards running costs this year.

But to ensure the work it does for young people can continue until at least next year, another £10,000 is needed, and Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council, is looking to help.

He’s asked Simon Hayes, Hampshire’s police and crime commissioner, whether he will bid for £5,000.

And if successful, Cllr Vernon-Jackson said the council would then seek to match that amount using the authority’s capacity and transition fund, a £200,000 pot of cash set aside for the voluntary sector.

But he said things would have been much easier if Off the Record had applied itself for both sets of money, like other local groups are required to if they need help.

‘It will get that £10,000, but that doesn’t sort the problem out,’ Cllr Vernon-Jackson said.

‘We have already done more than we did last year, but to make sure it runs for a full 12 months, it has got to get another £10,000.

‘Mr Hayes seemed positive. But it’s not a decision that I can make.

‘In the long term, it might be sensible for Off the Record to emerge with a good record of getting grants.

‘Clearly, there has been an issue with it not applying for things, and this would help it continue its work.

‘Off the Record is useful, but there are routes to apply for funding and it needs to use those routes.’

The charity was founded 35 years ago, in Leigh Park, and now counsels around 2,000 11 to 25-year-olds each year. It was under threat because the city council decided to stop funding it last year, but following pressure from Havant MP David Willetts and local campaigners, the decision was 
overturned.

As reported, the council gave £7,000 last year after Mr Willetts a long-term supporter of the charity, wrote to David Williams, chief executive of the council, urging him to do more to 
help.

Olympic medallist Katy Sexton, a patron for Off The Record, said: ‘It’s good news to hear that more funding is being provided.

‘It provides such a good service helping the youth of today.’

Cllrs Steve Wemyss and Neil Young, of Portsmouth’s Conservative group, will put forward a notice of motion at a meeting of the full council tomorrow that talks of the need for more cash to be given to the cause.