Preventing Addiction Larne (PAL) has vowed to continue to tackle substance misuse despite PCSP funding cuts totalling thousands of pounds.
Last week, the Larne Times revealed how a council report had warned that the PCSP funding cuts to community groups could lead to injury or death, an increase in anti-social behaviour, and domestic violence victims living in fear.
Preventing Addiction Larne (PAL), Mid and East Antrim Agewell Partnership (MEAAP), Larne YMCA and Seacourt Youth club all saw their PCSP funding severed on September 30, while the PSNI’s Fear of Crime reduction scheme will continue until the end of this December.
The Department of Justice has recently cut Mid and East Antrim Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSP)’s budget from £340,026 to £170,013, leaving it with only £7,140 left uncommitted and available to support its work until March 2016.
Secretary of PAL Larne Beverly Sharples said she was “frustrated and angry” at the DOJ cuts, as the extra funding from the PCSP would have enabled the charity to help an additional 150 people through counselling scheme over a six-month period as part of its Outreach Project.
“We are already operating at full capacity helping around 50 people per week and the funds enabled us to pay counsellors to come in and counsel people on substance misuse when our volunteer counsellors weren’t available,” she told the Times.
“Where there is a crisis we will still see people for counselling as soon as possible but some will have to go into the support group, which can take larger numbers, before counselling. We will raise money ourselves but that money provided us with security. The funds also helped to fund a public billboard and poster campaign which made people aware of our services.”
Beverly described the cuts as “devastating.”
“We have to provide for people from a wide area and now we have less money to do it,” she continued.
“Anybody coming to us will still be helped but may have to wait longer.”
General Secretary of Larne YMCA Joy McNally said that the cuts, which will end the group’s Keeping Young People Safe programme, were “regrettable.”
The PCSP funding had enabled the YMCA to fly two experts from the Diana Trust over to hold an anti-bullying workshop for over 100 young people. A road safety scheme has also been abandoned.
“The PCSP have been very supportive of us and it’s unfortunate the funding was cut,” said Joy. “We will try to identify other funding streams.”
Schemes to support vulnerable elderly people and discourage anti-social behaviour are also feeling the force of PCSP cuts.
Seacourt Youth Club previously received funding to address anti-social behaviour amongst young people in Larne through physical activity with its Sporting Chances programme.
Organiser Bertie Shaw told the Times: “This programme helped to get around 80 young people off the streets.
“Anti-social behaviour levels dropped but we aren’t able to continue the programme at the minute.”
Mr Shaw called for the money which is spent on PCSP members’ allowances to be redirected to the community groups who he said are “working at the coal face.”
Mid and East Antrim Agewell Partnership (MEAPP)’s Larne Home Security Project to tackle crime and the fear of crime and to support vulnerable people over the age of 50 will be “stretched” due to the funding cuts, said Project Development Officer Deirdre McCloskey.
Deirdre acknowledges that her organisation is comparatively lucky, as it has secured additional funding through the DOJ’s Assets Recovery Scheme until March 2016 and Big Lottery funding.
However, it had planned to combine all the funding streams to offer an expanded service across East Antrim, and will now be more limited in its reach.
“In Larne over a three month period our telephone devices blocked 1000 scams,” she revealed.
“It is a hidden but prevalent problem and in one case an elderly lady was scammed out of thousands of pounds.
“Last year we carried out 100 home security visits and installed 40 true call devices across Larne but we will most likely run out of funding at the end of March 2016. For many older people fear of crime has a negative impact on their mental health and ability to go out. Some have been scared to answer the phone.
“We are now looking at it as a Mid and East Antrim borough project to help people wherever there is need but we will have to work within our budget constraints.
“With the PCSP funding we would have been able to provide more overall.”
To contact PAL, telephone 028 28273335.