Fears over closure of Sunderland mental health project

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A MENTAL health charity has expressed concern over the closure of a charity that has helped thousands of Wearsiders.

As reported in the Echo, more than 100 staff and seasonal workers are being made redundant after Sunderland’s Bridge Project was put into administration.

Set up by a small band of female volunteers in 1985, the project has provided education and training opportunities for women across the area, all supported by free childcare.

Its closure came as a huge blow for users in Sunderland, Washington, Durham and Chester-le-Street, as the organisation was well-known for helping, advising and supporting women.

Mental Health North East (MHNE) says the group provided “crucial health and support initiatives alongside volunteering opportunities for local women, a significant number of whom have mental health difficulties” and says their work will be hard to replace.

Lyn Boyd, chief executive officer of MHNE said: “We had already predicted that in the current climate some of our member organisations would experience difficulties.

“However, it comes as a shock to discover that Bridge, one of our largest, longest-lived and most- respected organisations should find itself in this predicament.

“It also illustrates, despite Government rhetoric, the vulnerability of third sector organisations which provide unique and essential community–based and niche services which are not likely to be replicated elsewhere.’

“MHNE would like to commend all the workers and volunteers past and present who have enriched so many women’s lives.

“We hope that something might rise from the ashes which can continue the valuable work undertaken by Bridge.”

Changes and restrictions in central funding in health, education and local government have 
produced challenging times and cited as the main reasons why the Bridge Project entered administration.

The charity grew into a vibrant voluntary organisation, run by women, for women, with staff 
across its four centres across Washington and Durham.

It managed to form links with City of Sunderland College and also received funding from groups including the Big Lottery Fund, Durham and Sunderland councils, the NHS and the University of Sunderland during its 26-year history.

Offering vocational and non-vocational courses, Bridge also won a succession of accolades and awards as staff and volunteers worked to promote opportunities for women.

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