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Mental health ‘firm’ under funding threat
A LIFELINE for mental health patients which has helped lots of people get back to work could face closure next year as it stands to lose up to £50,000 of crucial funding from Swindon Council.
Phoenix Enterprises’ future has been thrown into doubt after the local authority announced plans to decommission the supported employment schemes it had so far funded, forcing them all to compete for grants from March 2014.
Funding under the new system would not be guaranteed and there has been no indication how much would be made available for groups to bid for.
PE, a social enterprise which operates a mailing and packaging business, was formed in 2001 to train and provide work placement for people recovering from short and long-term mental health problems.
It has received £48,000 so far this year, approximately 70 per cent of its running cost, from Swindon Council. The rest has come from the profits made through the mailing firm.
Manager Jodie Thomas said the threat of losing huge subsidies weighed heavily on staff, volunteers and users.
“There is no guarantee that we will get funding,” she said.
“We don’t know how much we will be able to bid for. We are here to support people and help them return to employment.
“We build people’s confidence and their self-esteem.
“There is that fear that if we can’t make it we will have to close Phoenix Enterprises. I would hate to see it shut.
“But I’m trying not to think about it and move myself and my team forward.”
“It could affect the people who have been here for a long time.”
Michael Hamilton, 58, who has been using the service for eight years, said the charity gave him a focus in life.
“It has helped me mentally and physically,” he said. “Before I didn’t feel there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
“I had to have a goal and something to focus on.
“It’s useful to learn new skills.”
Graeme Cook, 29, is now on a paid admin placement with PE. Joining the programme eight years ago changed his life.
“I’ve built up my skills and I went to college,” he said.
“I did business writing and a minute-taking course. Before I couldn’t even answer the phone.
“Now I live on my own. It has taught me independence.”
The service, currently based at Pembroke Centre, in Cheney Manor Industrial Estate, has already taken huge steps to cut cost by relocating to new facilities at Westmead Industrial Estate. The move is expected to save the charity £12,000 a year.
But it will initially take its toll on the service’s limited budget as a new kitchen, toilets and heating will need to be fitted.
A Swindon Council spokesman said: “The decision to review how we fund supported employment schemes like Phoenix Enterprises is part of a wider review of services provided by voluntary and community groups.
“The council is committed to providing supported employment schemes and other employment-based activities for people who are recovering from mental health issues to help them move forward with their lives and back into paid employment.
“But at this stage of our planning we are not able to say which organisation will be in a position to provide this type of service in the future.”
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