Charity's future is in doubt

LEADERS of a north Suffolk mental health charity will meet Suffolk County Council officials later this week in a last attempt to safeguard its future.The New Thresholds charity, based in Beccles, has been helping people with mental health problems for the past 11 years but because of proposed funding changes from Suffolk County Council it is now faced with possible closure.

By David Lennard

LEADERS of a north Suffolk mental health charity will meet Suffolk County Council officials later this week in a last attempt to safeguard its future.

The New Thresholds charity, based in Beccles, has been helping people with mental health problems for the past 11 years but because of proposed funding changes from Suffolk County Council it is now faced with possible closure.

The charity helps the recovery of people referred to them, which in some cases can take years, and during that time provide training in computer, carpentry, joinery, furniture repair, and office skills.


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On average Suffolk County Council social care services has been buying about 286 days a month to provide dozens of its clients with a place to go for training and support.

But under the new system, New Thresholds is only being asked to provide 100 days a month with long-term support being rejected in favour of 12-week placements.

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New Thresholds chief executive Cherry Trigwell said: “Regrettably we are unable to regard the delivery of twelve-week placements only - at the level of 1200 'places' per year, and the provision of no longer-term services - feasible as a starting point for negotiation of a contract for April 2005.

“Reduction to this level of service removes the need for all but one of our projects to exist and means that we have to make the majority of our staff redundant.”

She said the distress being caused to those being helped by the charity because of this uncertainty is “immeasurable” and that many of the 18 members of staff affected have health and disability problems themselves.

Ms Trigwell added: “It is unforgivable that any voluntary sector organisation such as New Thresholds, which believed that it had been working in partnership with Suffolk County Council Social Services for 11 years, should have been left in the untenable position of having to make assumptions of any kind about its future.”

In order to make redundancy payments to its members of staff the charity would have to dismantle its organisation to realise its assets and sell its main building in Beccles that took many years of fundraising to purchase.

“Given that the only reason that New Thresholds existed in the first place was to provide a service for Suffolk County Council's clients, it would appear that the council should bear some moral responsibility for our demise, even if it does not have a legal responsibility for it,” said Ms Trigwell.

Chris Lane, social care communications manager for Suffolk County Council, said the proposals were a starting point for negotiations.

However, the two sides appear to be some way apart as the county council believes the new system with 12-week placements to assess and prepare people for work is more flexible and allows better monitoring of an individual's progress.

Mr Lane added: “It is less likely that long-term placements will be used. We are proposing to buy less from New Thresholds because the demand for places isn't there.”

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