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Norfolk mental health charity fears cuts may deny help to the vulnerable

07:31 14 November 2014

Julian Support, based in Norwich. Helen Davies, trustee, and Ben Curran, head of operations, Norfolk service. Photo: Bill Smith

Julian Support, based in Norwich. Helen Davies, trustee, and Ben Curran, head of operations, Norfolk service. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Bosses of a Norfolk mental health charity fear that funding cuts will leave them unable to help the most vulnerable people.

‘I wouldn’t be here without Julian Support’

Helen Davies admitted that she “wouldn’t be here” without the help of Julian Support.

The 47-year-old from Sprowston, suffers from bipolar disorder and was in crisis when she reached out to the charity.

She had health problems at the time that meant she could not use stairs, but was living in a first floor flat in Thorpe St Andrew with her two cats.

When she was asked to reapply for disability living allowance, she made a mistake on the paperwork, was refused, and her credit card bill spiralled.

“I’ve always been a fighter and hate asking for help, but realised I needed it,” she said. “I laid all my cards on the table. It was a relief to talk about it.”

With the help of Julian Support, she moved to a bungalow in Sprowston in 2007 and had a full care plan.

She is no longer in debt and said the charity gave her hope again.

She added: “I feel a lot happier now than I did at the time, and even though I am an ex-service user there’s still support if and when I need it.”

Asked where she would be without Julian Support, she said: “I wouldn’t be here.”

She became a trustee of the charity in 2012, and said she wanted to give back by providing the perspective of a former service user.

Julian Support, which has 150 staff across Norfolk and Suffolk, aims to stop people falling through cracks in the system and ending up in prison, A&E, or worse.

Ben Curran, the charity’s head of operations for its Norfolk service, said that dwindling public sector funding has led to redundancies, and a review of the way services are delivered.

He said that funding from Norfolk County Council’s Supporting People budget, which stood at more than £480,000 last year, is set to be cut by around £60,000. This comes as the authority’s Supporting People programme budget is reduced by £2.4m over two years, a 17% cut.

Julian Support has also lost a £1.6m outreach contract which was transferred to a new provider in January.

Julian Support, based in Norwich. Photo: Bill SmithJulian Support, based in Norwich. Photo: Bill Smith

Mr Curran said: “It’s not easy, it’s very hard to cut from services that are already quite stretched.

“We are very mindful of protecting the people who need support.”

The charity, founded in Norwich and expanded into Suffolk in 2011, supports more than 200 service users.

“People often come from a place where they don’t have hope,” Mr Curran said.

Julian Support, based in Norwich. Helen Davies, trustee, and Ben Curran, head of operations, Norfolk service. Photo: Bill SmithJulian Support, based in Norwich. Helen Davies, trustee, and Ben Curran, head of operations, Norfolk service. Photo: Bill Smith

“As an organisation we have to carry the hope for people. If we can see the potential, it’s a matter of time before they see that for themselves and see a future.”

People who reach out to the charity may have been evicted from their home, or struggle with debt.

The charity offers supported housing services with 24-hour help, it has a residential care home in south Norfolk and trained counsellors. It also teaches people skills needed for independence – from managing household bills, to cooking and cleaning.

The charity was founded in 1990 and is named after a man who died in police custody, symbolising those the charity strives to support.

Services are 90% funded by government contracts, including the NHS and Norfolk County Council, with charities including the Big Lottery Fund also contributing.

Mr Curran said cutting funding would be a false economy as people may reach crisis and end up in A&E.

He said: “The pressure doesn’t go away, it just pops up somewhere else and then the problem becomes that much more significant.

“These [emergency services] aren’t places to go for preventative support. They’re your last chance and we need to do everything we can so people don’t get to that stage.”

The charity is currently piloting new services with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust.

For more on the charity, see www.juliansupport.org/, or visit their Facebook and Twitter pages.

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