Charity at risk after changes to funding

Headshot of Valerie Beresford from Workwise in Bury.
Headshot of Valerie Beresford from Workwise in Bury.
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A CHARITY which has helped thousands of people with physical and mental health problems into work could close by the end of the year due to funding changes.

Workwise, in Bury St Edmunds, has experienced a significant drop in those using its courses after block funding from Suffolk County Council was replaced with personal budgets.

The move allows individuals to fund the services they need.

However, bosses at the charity say it has led to a decline in referrals from care co-ordinators, who are overloaded with extra paperwork and bureaucracy – as those with mental health problems have to reapply for funding every three to six months.

Valerie Beresford, chief executive officer of Workwise, which is 25-years-old, said: “Currently we’ve got 34 people attending one programme but we could take twice that amount. We will close at the end of the year or early next year at the very latest if this continues. Sometimes there are more staff in than there are clients.”

She has written to the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley about the issue but has not yet received a response. In the letter, Mrs Beresford makes clear they are in favour of personal budgets but calls for a mixed funding approach to protect organisations such as Workwise and save other voluntary services. She writes: “We should be block funded for the early stages of the patient journey. Many people coming into our service are at the start of their journey to recovery and many are not at the stage where they can make fully informed choices about their path to recovery because they are in turmoil.

“This funding system for preventative service organisations such as ours is not working and urgently needs to be reviewed.”

Cllr Colin Noble, portfolio holder for adult services for the county council, said: “I understand what Workwise are saying. There are no easy answers to these things. We are looking at it and want to work with them to resolve the issues.”