Action Mental Health chief warns against lack of European funding

Action Mental Health Chief Executive, David Babbington. Credit: UTV

The Chief Executive of Action Mental Health is warning there will be catastrophic implications for services that support thousands of people with mental health challenges, if alternatives to European funding are not found.

David Babbington said his organisation is one of over 50 groups due to be impacted by the loss of European Social Fund money in March next year.

Mr Babbington said: “We’ve got no sense of who could come to the rescue in terms of this funding. We are very much working in the dark.

“I’m speaking on behalf of the other 51 organisations as well, the 1,600 staff who are at risk but also the over 16,000 people who are in those services as well. What do they do? What’s going to happen to them at the end of this funding?

“These people would be on waiting lists, clogging up the health sector and presumably getting worse.

“We’re profoundly concerned about the safety of our clients.”

10 Action Mental Health hubs and hundreds of jobs are funded by over £2m of ESF funds.

One of those is the New Horizons project in Lisburn, which welcomes around 100 people through its door each day. Its manager Michelle Bolton said it has been an unsettling time.

She stressed: “If that service isn’t going to be there, we will have one hundred clients and the increased people who have still to be referred to our service without any intervention.”

Action Mental Health has been in discussion with Stormont officials, including the Department of Health (DoH), about the loss of funding.

In a statement a DoH spokesperson said: “The proposed replacement of ESF, the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, is held centrally in Whitehall… that continuation of funding for these groups is a matter for the UK government.

“NI Departments have been engaged since 2016 and will continue to do so.

“The department is working with Trusts to assess the potential impact. In addition, Trusts have been directed to develop contingency plans.”

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