Counselling group gets a lifeline as council gives cash

Off the Record counsellor Debbie Smith
Off the Record counsellor Debbie Smith
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UNDER threat counselling service Off The Record has been given some breathing space after reaching a deal with Portsmouth City Council.

The young people’s charity, which covers Portsmouth and Havant, has run out of money and all staff have been made redundant.

Volunteers have been desperately trying to raise enough money to keep it going and with their help, and £7,000 in cash from the council, it is now on track to stay open until the end of the financial year.

Last year, the council withdrew funding to the charity and warned the peppercorn rent it charged on it’s Fratton Road office was to increase to a market rate.

The U-turn comes after pressure from the public, councillors, and Havant MP David Willetts.

John Simmonds, the chairman of Off The Record, said: ‘We are extremely grateful for the £7,000 we’ve received for this year.

‘It will enable us to bridge the gap from where we find ourselves now to the end of the financial year.

‘That money, plus the crisis fundraising all the volunteers have been doing, and the money raised by Kenwoods, gives us some breathing space.

‘It will also allow us to employ a limited amount of paid support. As trustees we can now focus on 2014/2015.

‘And the promise of the same amount next year from Portsmouth City Council makes things look more optimistic.’

But Mr Simmonds warned the charity is not out of the woods yet.

‘He said: ‘I don’t want to give that impression.

‘We’ve just about managed to raise the money to survive the next five months. But we absolutely must raise enough money to continue after that. It’s vital.’

The charity was founded 35 years-ago, in Leigh Park, and now counsels around 2,000 11 to 25 year olds each year.

Last month 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.

Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, leader of the council, said: ‘We sent them £7,000 and we have confirmed we will next year as well.

‘We have to find ways of saving money but we have established a fund to support the voluntary sector.’

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