Cuts could see family charity closing

Chrissy Nikel from Fair, right
Chrissy Nikel from Fair, right

A charity which provides a safe meeting place for parents and children to rebuild relationships could be forced to close because of funding cuts.

Family Action In Our Region (Fair) provides support to families in Rushden and the surrounding area.

Due to funding cuts in the past few years, the charity has tried to find money from other sources but bosses fear they cannot keep doing this.

General manager of Fair Chrissy Nikel said: “Until recently a lot of our funding came from the county council, but over the space of about 18 months all that dried up.

“We lost a third of our total funding. We have had to cut back on the services we offer and all of our staff have had their hours cut.

“In the past two years we have made more than 300 applications for funding to different organisations.

“We have only received acceptances from about 50 of those but from most we don’t even get a response.

“We are now at real risk of closure.”

Child contact centres provide a neutral meeting place for families which have gone through an acrimonious divorce or separation and, in some cases, where child protection concerns have been raised about one of the parents.

Since the first centre of its kind opened about 30 years ago, it has become a valuable part of the family court system.

But there is no statutory framework in place to protect the centres, which are often run by charities.

Fair, which offers daily supervised contact sessions, has seen money from local authorities in the county dwindle over the past three years.

It received £150,000 in 2010/11, which dropped to £57,000 in 2011/12 and then fell further to £48,000 in 2012/13.

The charity’s expected income from councils in Northamptonshire during 2013/14 is expected to be less than £25,000.

A spokesman for the county council said: “Previously the authority had a strategic grants programme, from which voluntary organisations could bid for money.

“This programme allocated grant-aid to organisations following an application process.

“The strategic grants programme finished in 2011 when the council changed the way it funds the voluntary sector and moved towards an approach of commissioning services on the basis of need.

“Organisations can tender to deliver services using this funding.”