YET another vital charity could close within months due to a drop in funding.
Home-Start Havant provides support to vulnerable families with children under school age.
Trained volunteers offer direct practical help to families who are often referred by health visitors and social services.
But the end of a grant from Hampshire County Council and the National Lottery means it may have to close within months.
It comes as Off The Record, in Portsmouth and Havant, and The Rainbow Centre, in Fareham, have revealed they may suffer a similar fate – and have launched desperate fundraising drives in a bid to stay open.
Home-Start needs up to £110,000 a year to survive but applications for council and lottery funding have been rejected.
The race is on to save the charity which supports around 100 families a year.
Trustee Helen Horn said: ‘Without the funding we’ve been working with for the last 10 years we will have to reduce the number of families we support to around 10 every six months, and within a couple of months we may have to close.
‘Some of our families may be picked up by other agencies but most will fall through the net. We are extremely concerned about letting them down.’
One of the major problems is failed funding bids to Hampshire County Council.
Councillor Keith Mans, who is responsible for children’s services, said Home-Start Hampshire has been given £50,000. But in fact only £5,000 of that will go to Havant.
He said the charity had chosen not to apply for a further grant and was turned down by an independent panel for a third.
Chairman Maggie Short explained: ‘We support families where at least one child is under five, although other siblings can be older.
‘The new tender was changed to cater for ages up to 19 years and this was given to us with less than three months’ notice.
‘With so little preparation time Home-Start Hampshire, as a group, decided we were not in a position to safely support the whole age group.
‘However, we were willing to work in partnership with another body, who had experience of working with older children, in order to fulfil the new contract requirements.
‘Sadly there were no organisations that covered the whole county – part of the council’s requirement – able or willing to partner with us.’
She added: ‘We are, of course, committed to supporting the council’s requirements in any way we can, resources permitting, because, at the end of the day, supporting these vulnerable families is why we exist.’
David Willetts, MP for Havant, has supported all three charities and his wife Sarah is patron of Home-Start Havant.
He said the government has put money into a pot to help charities through the recession and local authorities should prioritise.
‘Ultimately local authorities have to set their priorities, they’re managing within tough budgets. But lots of people have to do that.
‘Local authorities should look after the voluntary sector because it does so much for people across Hampshire. And it costs very little because so many people are volunteers. It’s not only the right thing to do but also cost-effective.’
He said he would do all he could to help the charities.
But Cllr Mans said local authorities were under immense pressure to adjust public spending and following year-on-year cuts in government funding Hampshire must reduce its budget by a further £93m by 2015.
He added: ‘That said, the welfare of children and young people remains a firm priority for us, and we recognise the importance and value in supporting vulnerable families.
‘We have firmly prioritised and protected funding for the most vulnerable children, but we have to apply rigorous criteria and assessments in granting money to other bodies, especially those dealing with important, but non-statutory services.’
Youth counselling service at risk of closure
OFF The Record has been in the headlines for weeks following the stark warning that it will close in just a few months unless more cash is found.
The charity gives free counselling to 11 to 25-year-olds across the area.
There are branches in Havant and Portsmouth and chairman Peter Mills has confirmed one will definitely close unless the annual running costs of £80,00 are found soon.
Mr Mills said: ‘We have the funding available to run for three months.
‘After that, if no more funding is forthcoming, we will have to run down one of the sites.
‘If we were obliged to do that we would not do it straight away. We would not want a young person coming to Off The Record to find the doors locked on them.
‘We would give the hundreds of youngsters time to talk through their problems before it actually closes.
‘If additional money comes forward we will rescind that. We have some applications in the pipeline.’
If you would like to help go to off-the-record.org.uk or call (023) 9278 5999.
Alternatively text OTRH11 followed by the value you want to donate to 70070.
Boost for centre but more help needed
FOLLOWING news last month that there was just weeks to save The Rainbow Centre, in Fareham, the public donated £85,000 in a matter of days.
It was a great boost for the charity which provides conductive education to children with cerebral palsy.
But there is still a long way to go. The charity needs £550,000 a year to survive and gets no statutory funding from either local authorities or the government.
Chief executive Lara Bull said: ‘Conductive education falls between two stools; social care and health.
‘Although we can apply for one-off grants from local authorities there is no statutory funding. We were humbled by the public’s response. It was incredible. People tell us every day how The Rainbow Centre changes their children’s lives.
‘People may not understand exactly what conductive education is but they understand that if the service goes, there will be nothing else like it on the south coast.’
Lara said the key to surviving is a regular, reliable income that is sustainable, particularly corporate sponsorship, and Raindrops Regular Giving for individuals.
To donate to The Rainbow Centre go to rainbowcentre.org, call 01329 289500, or text RBOW21 £2/£5/£10 to 70070.
Support for families
FOR more than 30 years Home-Start Havant has been transforming lives.
The charity steps in to help vulnerable families when times are tough and families are at breaking point.
It could be for any manner of reasons – perhaps a new mum is struggling and has no family in the area and needs to talk to someone for just a couple of hours a week.
Or they are struggling with one child seriously ill.
Volunteers offer practical help to vulnerable families, such as looking after children while a parent takes another sibling to hospital appointments, or helping mothers with twins or triplets simply to go on a food shopping trip which would otherwise be impossible.
Nikki Wells was put in touch with Home-Start because she struggled to cope when her mum died while she was heavily pregnant. A volunteer visited each week and they would take all the children to the park together, go shopping, or the volunteer would simply hold the baby to give Nikki the chance of spending time with her other children.
Nikki said: ‘I was finding life difficult.’
To donate go to homestart-havant.org.uk or text HOME44 and either 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 10 to 70070.
‘Cutting cash to charities will be a false economy’ Read The News Comment on this issue