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Charity for rape victims may axe services.

A CHARITY helping victims of rape and sexual abuse in Coventry says a cut in council grant could force it to withdraw vital services.

Radford-based Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre is one of about 50 voluntary organisations asked to take a three per cent grant cut as part of today's pounds 9million city council savings programme.

Deputy council leader, Conservative councillor Kevin Foster, has said he hopes most organisations can afford the three per cent cut in April by becoming more efficient.

But many charities, including CRASAC, say their organisations are already efficiently running on a shoe-string budget, so they would be forced to cut back on services.

CRASAC's Sarah Learmonth and manager Dianne Whitfield say they might have to cut its helpline for victims reporting incidents of rape and sexual abuse.

Ms Learmonth said: "We believe a three per cent cut would be catastrophic.

"We supported nearly 3,000 victims of rape and sexual abuse last year and looking at the trend from 2004 onwards, the evidence points to a 15 per cent increase in our client numbers this year.

"Not only do we need to maintain services, but expand them."

She said the helpline was manned by 20 fully trained volunteers and took more than 2,000 calls a year, a quarter of them from children.

Both the volunteer programme and the helpline relied on donations, mainly from other charity organisations.

The centre receives pounds 120,000 a year core funding from the city council and NHS Coventry.

It only covers a third of its budget, and the centre has to reapply for it each year.

Centre bosses have now secured a meeting with Coun Foster about future funding.

They will also meet later this month with Maria Eagle, junior minister in the Government's equalities office, to lobby for longterm ring-fenced funding to secure its future.

CAPTION(S):

FEARS...Dianne Whitfield, centre manager of CRASAC, and (left) Coun Kevin Foster who hopes organisations could absorb the cut DJ050109CRAS4.jpg
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 24, 2009
Words:332
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