Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Victims' group faces closure: 'They have been fantastic. I don't know what we'll do without them'

Jim Gillies from Bangor at Ards Phoenix group which faces threat of closure due to the lack of funding

A victims' group which faces closure because of funding cuts has said the way their cash has been slashed has left them full of "frustration tinged with anger".

Ards Phoenix Group provides 600 former soldiers, policemen, prison officers and their families with vital counselling and reconciliation services.

Now the group faces closure because of the lack of funds from Stormont.

Members have appealed for politicians to reconsider.

Chairman of the Ards Phoenix Group, David Crabbe, said: "A lot of people who have come to rely upon our service, not least those who have mental health issues such as post traumatic stress disorder, the support that is needed there is ongoing and if it drops out I just don't know what people are going to do."

Jim Gillies (60), a former UDR soldier, joined the group three years ago.

He is disabled and walks aided by canes because of injuries he suffered from bomb blasts in the 1970s and '90s.

He said: "I'm over all the time, I really rely on their services. Beforehand I was never out of the house.

"A friend one day told me about the group in Ards, so I went over and I was very withdrawn and into myself because of my disability and they got me out of that.

"The group got me counselling and that really got me out of my shell after all the years of what I had went through.

"They gave my wife a holiday last year, the first she has had in a long time, as she is my carer.

"They have been fantastic and without them I don't know what we are going to do – and I am only one of many.

"There are a few people in there with mental problems and if that closed down, I don't know what they would do.

"I have post traumatic stress disorder as well, and they helped me and gave me counselling for stress and gave me counselling for the disability.

"They got me pain relief and they got me physiotherapy for it as well.

"I would appeal to the politicians, I spoke to Mike Nesbitt yesterday.

"I appeal to Martin McGuinness, Peter Robinson, any of them, to try and give us money to keep us going."

Heather Barrett's husband was in the RAF and is a former RIR overseas battalion soldier.

He suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and arthritis.

The 45-year-old Dundonald woman said: "My husband had a lot of medical problems.

"Someone said to me about going to the Phoenix so I went along and there were people there in the same situation as myself and I went from there.

"If the Phoenix Centre closed down, it would be back to square one again for me.

"They have sent me on courses, on understanding how to deal with depression and pain.

"It's helped me to deal with a lot of my husband's issues.

"There was a time where I didn't know how to deal with him and they really helped me through."

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