Vital Fakenham charity First Focus could close within weeks unless new funding can be found

First Focus co-ordinator April Simnor. Picture: Ian Burt First Focus co-ordinator April Simnor. Picture: Ian Burt

Friday, August 1, 2014
1:58 PM

A last-ditch plea has been made to help save a lifeline Fakenham charity which could close within weeks unless new funding can be found.

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First Focus has helped thousands of people in the Fakenham area during the last 12 years and has been described as “the difference between life or death” for some.

But the charity is now in a critical financial state and its founder Terry Read said it will soon close if funding is not found urgently.

Grant bids have been submitted and trustees are doing everything possible to prevent the closure.

But the charity is now at crisis point and individuals and businesses are being urged to make donations, provide sponsorship and organise fund-raising events to enable First Focus to continue its work helping some of society’s most vulnerable people.

Mr Read said: “First Focus has always been grant-funded but now there are so many groups out there that need money and the pot has grown smaller and smaller.

“We are actively seeking funding and doing absolutely everything we can but we have got to the situation where we are on the verge of having to close this wonderful resource.

“We really need the support of the local community.”

First Focus helps a wide range of people by hosting clubs and support groups as well as a social meeting place twice a week at a drop-in centre on Cattle Market Street, Fakenham.

The charity has, in the last year, launched an outreach service where it goes out to help people in isolated rural areas including Walsingham, Kettlestone and Helhoughton.

First Focus has been put under increased pressure during the last two years by changes to the way grants are allocated.

Government changes to social services, introduced in 2012, has led many funders to give preference to charities which can show they can generate significant income themselves.

Determined efforts have helped First Focus to make some progress in that area, but with users of the charity being amongst the most vulnerable in society, it has proved a major challenge.

The charity is now surviving on its minimal financial reserves, voluntary donations of users and the goodwill of its one paid member of staff, co-ordinator April Simnor, who has agreed to work unpaid in the short-term.

With some users isolated and suffering mental health issues First Focus, amongst other things, checks to see if they have had their medication.

Mrs Simnor said: “There is no doubt that First Focus is the difference between life and death for some people and it would be an absolute travesty if it had to close.

“I see how valuable First Focus is to the local community so I am willing to put in the time and effort to try and keep it going.”

Paul Morton, 55, from Fakenham, who has multiple sclerosis, has been a regular at First Focus for the last few months.

He said: “They helped me understand things I was told by the doctor which I was confused about and they helped fight my corner when they were going to take my benefits were going to be taken away.

“If First Focus had to close I don’t know where I would turn.”

Tanya Abel, 29, from Fakenham, who is unemployed, volunteers with First Focus while she tries to secure a career in care work.

She said: “I had absolutely no confidence before I came here. First Focus helped me to believe in myself. I would be lost without it.”

First Focus needs to raise £25,000 per year to continue but is looking for immediate donations to keep running in short-term during efforts to secure its long-term future.

Mr Read said: “First Focus saves the government an awful lot of money.

“If we have to close, the health and wellbeing of some of the people we help will deteriorate and they will require support from the NHS and social services.”

The type of activities offered at First Focus depend on what people ask for and man are aimed at prolonging independent living.

To help First Focus, contact Barrie Bishop on 01328 878473, or email mitremanagements@aol.com or info@firstfocus.org.

Alternatively, visit First Focus any Tuesday between 10am and 1pm or Thursday between 10am and 3pm.

n Can we help you promote a fund-raising event in aid of First Focus? Email adam.lazzari@archant.co.uk

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