Norwich charity could be forced to cut mental health service which saved lives of 12 veterans in past nine months

The unveiling of the Veterans' Response Partnership car. Right, director of the Walnut Tree Project

The unveiling of the Veterans' Response Partnership car. Right, director of the Walnut Tree Project Luke Woodley with clinical psycologist Dr Roger Kingerlee. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A charity could be forced to cut back a vital mental health service which has 'saved the lives' of 12 Norfolk veterans in nine months.

The Walnut Tree Project currently runs an out-of-hours service providing direct support to veterans going through a mental health crisis.

It enables ex-military personnel to call a number between 10pm and 8am to receive face-to-face support regardless of where they live in the county.

But the charity, which operates from the Bowthorpe Community Hub, said an increase in demand and a lack of funding could see the Veterans' Response Partnership service cut back. Luke Woodley, who founded the Walnut Tree Project, said: 'We are desperately in need of funding, we always are.

'It is the fact that if we continue to see this upward trend [in demand] then we have to consider what we can carry on with.

'And the reality is that the first thing that would have to take a hit would be the life saving cars.'

The charity, has helped 298 military veterans and their families since it was launched three years ago.

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But Mr Woodley said the number of people seeking assistance was increasing, with an additional 60 people requiring help this year.

Due to limited funding, he said the charity was unable to pay staff, and was instead run by volunteers who are all ex-military.

Mr Woodley said the organisation needs to raise £30,000 this year to cover running costs alone.

He said one of the biggest expenses was its two support cars, which were called out 88 times in the past nine months, costing £140 each time.

'If you look at the fact that in nine months that particular service has saved 12 lives, it shows how important it is,' he said.

The crisis service operates between the hours during which Mind's mental health support line is not available.

Mr Woodley said the increased demand meant the charity needed to raise even more money to bring in paid staff with specialist skills. But he added that it could cost up to £104,000 per year.

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For more information, visit the charity helped a navy veteran

The charity's out-of-hours service proved to be life-saving for one Norfolk navy veteran who was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Father-of-two and former chief petty officer Martin, from Mundesley,

developed the condition when he left the armed forces after 23 years in 2011.

The 45-year-old had received limited assistance from his GP and mental health services, and eventually reached out to the charity in December 2016

as his condition deteriorated.

His wife, Alex, who did not wish for their full names to be used, said: 'He was going through physical and mental health issues and was not getting much help. But Luke took him on board and at times has come out at 2am and 3am to help us.

'My other half has said he does not think he would be alive without the help he provided.

'That [crisis] number saves lives. I know that from our personal experience.'