Charity at risk due to cash shortfall

FOLLOWING a funding shortfall of over £50,000, staff at The Lifestyle Centre, Stornoway, are reducing their hours – and in turn their pay – in a bid to aid the support centre’s continuation until new funding streams can be accessed in the new year.

Funded by the Social Care Council of the Church of Scotland, Crossreach, The Lifestyle Centre is facing a deficit of £53,000 following the loss of a major long-standing contribution.

And until new revenue can be applied for next year, the Centre will now operate on £30,000 funding provided by NHS Western Isles and the Comhairle’s Community Health and Social Care Partnership (ChaSP).

Reductions in opening hours at the Centre are the result, as the two full time counsellors at the Stornoway base will each lose one day’s work a week.

A former client now employed by Crossreach as a therapeutic worker will only be called into work as and when required; and the unique travelling and phone counselling service provided by a Centre employee throughout the Uists and Barra will be seriously curtailed.

Centre Manager, Christine Macmillan, explained: “We’re so sorry that the service is going to be diminished, and we hope to build it up again when we secure funding.

But we want to try and keep the Centre open every day to remain constant, so reducing hours is the way around this.

“And we’re hoping to have someone down in the Uists for one day a week. It’s very unfortunate especially down there as the service is so unique and covers such a large area so well.”

The Lifestyle Centre in Stornoway will now be open daily Mondays to Fridays (although an AA meeting is held in the centre on Saturdays), from 9am until 4pm, and for further information regarding either the Stornoway or Uist services, please contact the centre on 01851 701010.

The financial struggle comes as The Lifestyle Centre celebrates its 20th anniversary and recognition is paid to the charity that for decades has offered care and assistance to not only those suffering from drug and alcohol problems, but also family and friends.

A special 20th Anniversary Service of Thanksgiving is to be held in Martins Memorial, Stornoway at 7.30pm on September 25th, and all are invited to find out just how instrumental The Lifestyle Centre has been in maintaining the well-being of island communities.

Offering both counselling and drop-in services to those suffering with drug and alcohol addictions, the Centre also extends its services to client’s friends and family and works closely with other addiction agencies like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and family support group Al Anon.

But The Lifestyle Centre offers more than counselling, it provides a safe and comfortable place for individuals to get their lives back on track, meet and share experiences with those in similar situations and get support in dealing with day to day living as well as help moving forward with training opportunities readily available through the charity.

Christine explained: “We assist with general living, things like working with clients to help them manage their debt or help sort filling out forms.

“We help to bring them back to the person they used to be. We remind them of the skills they already have and assist them in regaining and building on those skills. At the end of the day though, it is all the client’s work to get themselves back.”

And it’s a service which works, as one client who has attended The Lifestyle Centre for five years can testify.

“I’m working now, two days a week, sometimes three or four if it’s busy. I set my alarm for 6.30am on a work day and I’m up and out the door by 8am. I couldn’t have imagined getting up like that, never mind getting a job before,” she said.

“And I’m seeing my youngest son again, we’re talking again. I feel like I’m definitely living my life now.”

She continued: “It’s a nice bunch of people there. It welcomes people and makes then very comfortable and it’s quite private, you’ve no worries about it being confidential if you’re getting counselling.

“I don’t know where else I would have gone had it not been for The Lifestyle Centre. To me it’s a lifeline service and I’m sure that others feel the same.”

The Lifestyle Centre – which for most of its 20 years was situated in Stornoway Town Hall – is now situated off Rigs Road, by Clinton’s yard.

It’s an ideal premises for the discreet charity, in town but tucked quietly away, and also displays the recognition felt in the community to the centre’s work, as Christine explained: “When we saw the premises we thought they were great, but they didn’t have a kitchen – we make a lot of tea and coffee and also sometimes small lunches for our clients, so that was important to any new premises.

“When we told this to Angus Clinton [premises landlord] however he put a kitchen in for us within a week, and we’re also getting a very favourable rent rate. We’re so thankful to him.”

And Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan is also a supporter of the ‘vital service’.

Commenting on its funding shortfall, he said: “The shortfall in the expected funding supplied to the agency this year has led to strenuous efforts being made to ensure its services are continued, particularly over the remainder of the year.

“I met recently with those involved with the project and was very impressed by them. The Western Isles has, it’s fair to say, a significant problem with alcohol abuse, and a great many people who are looking for help with the problem. The Church of Scotland’s Lifestyle Centre is one of the agencies making a real difference for individuals and their families in this area.”