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Friends in need of rescue; GOOD CAUSE CASH CRISIS.

Byline: ROBERT WETHERALL

HUNDREDS of disabled people could have a vital lifeline withdrawn because of a charity cash crisis.

Bosses at Tyneside-based Friends Action North East claim they could go out of business within weeks because they can no longer find funding to continue providing their service.

The Newcastle-based charity helps people with learning disabilities to socialise and meet other people in similar circumstances.

But because of the recession, the charity's bosses say finding funding is becoming an impossibility.

Projects co-ordinator Sally Evans has nine weeks to find some cash, otherwise she will no longer be able to help around 500 people who use their service.

She said: "We have a grant from the Newcastle Learning Disability Partnership Board but that is set to run out in August. If we don't find something else by then we will have to close.

"The recession has meant that fewer people and businesses are in a position to donate to charity and because of that more charities are chasing a dwindling pool of cash." Sally says that because the people who benefit from her service don't have a physical disability and because many people don't understand how hard it can be for learning disabled people to socialise, the charity often misses out.

She said: "People see us as a low priority because they think making friends is something simple and why should people need help with it? "Being lonely is a terrible thing. People with learning disabilities can have trouble socialising. And travelling on public transport can be a problem if you have difficulty reading numbers or interacting with bus drivers or remembering where to get off.

"It could take someone as long as a year to make friends with someone else. This is a service which invests time in people who other parts of society don't realise need help."

Charities across the North East are facing the prospect of laying off staff or closing. A report shows rising unemployment and debt is putting pressure on cash-strapped organisations.

As previously reported in the Chronicle, the Surviving Not Thriving report revealed some are already having to shed employees and dip into savings.

The survey, by the Voluntary Organisations North East (VONNE) found 56% are seeing a drop in funding as public sector agencies and funders tighten their belts.

Nearly all see securing funds as the biggest challenge over the next year, two thirds fear they are ill-prepared to cope with the recession and nearly a quarter are predicting redundancies this year.

VONNE chief executive Jo Curry warned the situation was set to get worse. She said: " Over the next year we are anticipating widespread job losses and closures of charities and groups as the effects of the recession deepen." Anyone who is able to help Friends Action North East can call Sally on ( 0191) 298 6970..
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 22, 2009
Words:472
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