| 8.3°C Belfast

Belfast counselling service set to close could get £20k council lifeline

Close

Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit with Sheree Irwin and Mandy McDermott from Compass during a city centre rally held in Belfast last weekend regarding a lack of funding for mental health services

Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit with Sheree Irwin and Mandy McDermott from Compass during a city centre rally held in Belfast last weekend regarding a lack of funding for mental health services

Gerry Carroll from People Before Profit with Sheree Irwin and Mandy McDermott from Compass during a city centre rally held in Belfast last weekend regarding a lack of funding for mental health services

A £20,000 rescue plan to keep a counselling organisation facing closure afloat has been supported by councillors in Belfast.

Shankill-based Compass counselling, which has been running for four years through donations and self-funding, has been turning away clients and will end soon without funding.

Compass directors Mandy McDermott and Sheree Irwin, as well as a former client and trainee counsellor, addressed Belfast City Hall earlier this week in advance of a motion proposed by councillor Matt Collins to discuss intervention.

Ms McDermott said: "Under the New Decade, New Approach deal the Minister for Health stated he has made mental health one of his top priorities.

"Therefore we are urging the council to help us as we call on the minister and the department to keep to their word and save us from closure."

Sinn Fein councillor Ryan Murphy proposed that the council immediately gives £20,000 of savings from the current budget to keep the organisation afloat pending an appeal to the Department of Health.

People Before Profit councillor Mr Collins supported the funding lifeline, stating: "Compass are faced with shutting their doors in the here and now.

"They can't really have a situation where they are waiting weeks to have meetings with the minister. I think it would be very positive if in the meantime the council could step in and offer this money to keep them ticking over while we up the momentum for the campaign."

Compass is a cross-community agency working across the age spectrum on a wide range of issues, including trauma, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, stress, sexual abuse, addiction, and relationship issues.

It provides around 900 sessions a year, with voluntary staff taking referrals from the Belfast Trust's GP surgeries and psychiatry departments.

At the council meeting DUP councillor Brian Kingston said his party supported the money going to Compass.

PUP councillor Billy Hutchinson said he also supported the move but had "great concerns" over the funding being delayed for a final decision to next month's full council meeting.

He said the organisation had been "ill-informed" about the decision-making procedure in the council and said it should be given the money immediately.

Council voted 30 members to 23 to defer the final decision to the strategic policy and resources committee on March 20.

Belfast Telegraph