Funding for HIV support charity to be cut

Support worker Angela Lowe at EAST (Eastern AIDS Support Triangle) which is going to close after Nor

Support worker Angela Lowe at EAST (Eastern AIDS Support Triangle) which is going to close after Norfolk County Council funding is cut.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Funding is being pulled from a Norwich charity which has supported people living with HIV and AIDS since the early 1990s in order to get 'value for money'.

EAST (Eastern AIDS Support Triangle) charity which is going to close after Norfolk County Council fu

EAST (Eastern AIDS Support Triangle) charity which is going to close after Norfolk County Council funding is cut.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

But trustees of Eastern AIDS Support Triangle (EAST), based on Cathedral Street and providing a service for around 160 people with HIV across Norfolk, say the loss of funding will remove a vital safety net.

The contract with Norfolk County Council, worth £74,000 a year and up to 90pc of total income for the charity, will not be renewed next month, at which point the service will close.

'There are no agencies that are going to pick up these 160 clients,' said EAST trustee Mike Scialom. 'They are from all around Norfolk, so ultimately it is going to be much more expensive in terms of NHS treatment, mental health provision and various degrees of ruined lives if these people fail to have a trusted support network.'

The charity currently provides an outreach service and support around a number of associated issues, including mental health and homelessness.

'The equivalent charities in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk are very well funded with about £100,000 a year,' Mr Scialom added. 'But clearly Norfolk County Council have made their decision.

'We are now discussing what will happen with the clients and the volunteers, and there isn't a straightforward answer to that.

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'Norfolk County Council have made claims like they could be handed over to the Samaritans, but these are people with severe issues ranging from mental health issues to financial issues and social problems. 'A lot are very isolated and form a very deep attachment to their care worker. They won't want to be simply passed off to another agency.

'Norfolk County Council only announced last week the funding was being cut, in a completely unexpected fashion, and we have been trying to come up with solutions for each of the clients since then.

'There has been almost no warning, and it is just going to be very difficult to make sure we can get them appropriate treatment and care.'

Norfolk County Council said people living with HIV AIDS in Norfolk will still get support, but in 'a different way'.

'EAST has provided support for many people over the years; a service we know has been valued by people who use it,' said a spokesman.

'We consistently review all the services we fund to make sure we are getting the best value for money and there is no duplication of services, so with this in mind, the decision has been taken to not renew the current contract when it comes to an end in March.

'Service users will still get support, but it will be in a different way than they do currently.'

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