Charity to close after council pulls funding

The trustees of a Wiltshire mental health charity have decided to close it down after the county council declined to renew a contract with it.

The Bridge Project, which has been providing mental health support services and Saturday clubs for carers in Trowbridge since 2001, says the council has given no reason for the decision, which was made last September.

“We are completely in the dark,” said manager Andrew Day. “It has been a frustrating endeavour to contact people in the county council. They say people will ring us back and they don’t.”

Day said the council did not consult service users, many of whom, he said, will suffer a “personal tragedy” when the Bridge Project’s services end on March 31. “For some of them the next stop will be acute care and an in-patient bed,” he said.

A statement from Jeanette Longhurst, Wilthshire County Council’s head of service, said the contract had not been renewed because the council wants to change the way it provides services. “Of course the Bridge Project is welcome to tender for work we will be commissioning," she said.

But Day says his organisation will not exist by the time the new contracts are given out. “Why don’t they extend our current contract by six months and give us a chance?” he said, pointing out that the charity was highly commended in recent service level reviews.

Day also said he knew of some charities in the area that had only been given six-month contracts from April, and one that had only been given a three-month contract.

He admits that in hindsight he would not have relied so heavily on council funding. “We were a bit trusting,” he says. “We were hearing positive noises and getting excellent feedback. I didn’t believe people could do this without consultation.” No one from Wiltshire County Council was available to answer questions.

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