Lifeline for alcoholics

Kevan Martin, chief executive of Neraf (North East Regional Alcohol Forum)

Kevan Martin, chief executive of Neraf (North East Regional Alcohol Forum)

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A STRUGGLING charity helping tackle alcoholism on Wearside has been thrown a £50,000 lifeline by health chiefs.

The North East Regional Alcohol Forum (Neraf) provides long-term support to people affected by drink misuse, running self-help groups, drop-ins, mentoring and training services.

The charity, based in North Sands Business Centre, Monkwearmouth, had been struggling in the difficult funding climate and founder Kevan Martin said it had been forced to shed a member of staff.

Now Neraf has been chosen as the only Wearside charity to receive funding from a £3.6million pot to support charities which the Government says may not otherwise survive until the end of the year.

Mr Martin said: “Obviously we’re over the moon. It’s been a difficult time for a lot of organisations, but particularly the area we’re working on – alcohol misuse – because it’s a growing problem nationally.

“This money is very, very welcome. We’re an NHS-commissioned service and we had our budget cut.

“Last year we had to lose a worker, which put our services under pressure. This money means we can re-employ somebody and basically we’re back up to full strength again.”

Mr Martin said Neraf had proved it was worth the money it receives and believes organisations such as his will have to prove their worth more and more if they are to survive.

“We’ve shown the impact we have on working with people, supporting them for as long as they need,” he said.

“We’re helping people back into work, we’re reducing hospital admissions and, really, we’re saving the NHS money.”

He added: “Without a doubt we are going down the route of payment by results. It’s going to be a difficult time for many, and I think a lot of smaller organisations will go.”

The charity funding announced by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley and Care Services minister Paul Burstow is part of a Financial Assistance Fund set up to support charities in great difficulty.

Mr Lansley said: “I’m pleased we’re able to give this money to help so many organisations keep providing valuable support and services for thousands of people.

“Charities play an important role in our vision for the Big Society and it is right that, in these difficult economic circumstances, we should give short-term support to organisations which are helping to support health and care services.

“This support will ensure that strong, independent voluntary organisations survive.”

Mr Burstow added: “Central Government can’t do everything people want in their communities – local people are better placed than officials or ministers in Whitehall to know what their communities need.”