Charity plea: 'Help us to help you'

This Is Wiltshire: Amanda Wilkes, left, and Eva Ashmore of HELP Amanda Wilkes, left, and Eva Ashmore of HELP

A charity which offers counselling to people from west Wiltshire fears it may go bust if it fails to receive around £15,000 in funding.

HELP Counselling Services, based at Bridge House, Trowbridge, is run by a small team including two part-time staff and eight volunteers.

They offer one-to-one therapy for those over 16 who are dealing with issues such as depression, anxiety, mental health issues and domestic abuse.

But in a year when the organisation was hoping to celebrate its 30th anniversary, it has been left concerned for its future.

Service manager Amanda Wilkes said: “We are valuable to a lot of people and at any one time we have about 30 or 40 people on our books.

“We are now considering not taking on new clients as we just couldn’t support them at the minute, the problem is that serious.

“We were hoping to have a rebrand for our 30th anniversary, but that has been put on hold.

“It is well-known there isn’t enough counselling in Wiltshire and to lose this service would be disastrous.”

HELP sees around 250 people each year, holding around 2,000 therapy sessions for which clients are asked to make a minimum donation of around £5, but some people can’t afford to do this.

Despite donations being down, the charity’s intake of clients has increased by around 45 per cent since the start of the year, with people being referred by GPs, support agencies or signing up through HELP’s website.

Mrs Wilkes said: “We have around three months worth of funds left and if we could raise £15,000 that would take us to September, giving us enough time to come up with a long-term fundraising plan.”

Each year, the organisation needs around £27,000 for it to survive. It receives funding from groups, Trowbridge Town Council, schools and churches and it is planning to apply to Trowbridge Area Board for support.

Eva Ashmore, HELP’s service co-ordinator, said: “When you see the number of people coming through the doors, you realise what a lifeline HELP is. Counselling is something that more and more people are taking up these days as it’s not as stigmatised anymore.

“But getting it privately is difficult, often because of the cost, so we provide a much- needed service.”

HELP doesn’t receive government or health service grants and had its funding from Wiltshire Council cut around 11 years ago, but it managed to survive independently.

Trowbridge mayor John Knight, a trustee of HELP, said: “They don’t get enough publicity, but I’ve always been very impressed with the service as it’s affordable and makes such a difference to people’s lives.”

The threat to HELP’s future follows Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust’s decision to temporarily close the in-patient unit at Charter House, Seymour Road, because of low occupancy.

The closure comes at a time when Alzheimer’s Support figures show the number of Wiltshire people with dementia on doctors’ registers last year rose to 6,736, an increase of 425 on 2011.

Anyone who would like to donate to HELP or organise a fundraiser for it can visit www.helpcounselling.co.uk or call 01225 767459.

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