By Jenny Minard
BBC Berkshire Reporter
Charitable organisations are facing the cuts as council spending is reduced
With the recession affecting charities, council funding cuts will take an added toll on the services in Reading.
Voluntary groups are falling victim and 40 percent of Relate's income is from council grants and charitable donations.
Funding from Reading Borough Council has already stopped.
Relate faced possible closure in January because of funding issues but an appeal on BBC Radio Berkshire led to donations.
The counselling service will now be able to continue at least until the end of the current financial year.
"When I first contacted BBC Radio Berkshire in mid-January, the situation was extremely serious," said Karen Ross, chief executive of Relate in Berkshire.
"We really suffered a set back in terms of the effect of the snow and falling donations due to our clients because of the effect of recession.
"Without a quick injection of funding we were really worried that once our funds had run out then we would have to close.
"The public have responded really well and we did get a number of donations that came in as a result of me going on air.
"We've changed a number of things that we do at Relate, as needs must in these situations, and we've been able to get more donations from our clients as well as going back to local authorities and saying to them 'look we simply cannot offer you a free service anymore'."
Relate has been refused a grant by Reading Borough Council - despite providing services for the council by taking referrals - the charity has just reached an agreement with the authority to charge them the commercial rate for each referral.
"The local authority in Reading refused us any grant funding for two years," said Karen.
"Yet was still referring clients to us and expecting us to see them with no payment.
"We went back to them in very firm terms and we've been able to negotiate our arrangement with them so that all clients that they refer to us and all telephone referrals - there is now an invoice arrangement which is very much a better way we can work with the council.
"So from the quick way that we responded to our problem we have been able to secure the service."
Hand to mouth
Relate say they are "hand to mouth" at the moment - and are encouraging clients to donate. 2000 people use the service every year and Relate is looking to the future.
"We have put some plans in place so the way we operate now is that we put a bursary scheme in place.
"We will try to provide everyone with a service once we have funds available and that should help us to be much more efficient in what we provide rather than watching funds just come out of our pockets.
"We've had to have a much more business like approach to the way we are working with clients and funders and hope that will provide a better future."
Relate said it has seen a dip in funding from donations as more clients use the service and more people are finding life both at home and work a compromise due to the recession.
And they need the funding more than ever said Karen.
"We are specialists in couples counselling and we are the specialists in relationship counselling.
"While there are many agencies that deal with singles we are specially trained to work with couples.
"Now we are working with families and young people, as well as adult couples, and the particular brand of work we do is specific to Relate.
"There isn't that service available elsewhere. A lot of people do offer counselling but it's not the same service as we offer."
Facing the Cuts
Facing the Cuts week focuses on the funding cuts around the country and the BBC has commissioned a survey of all councils across the country - from the responses it received it looks like thousands of council jobs will go over the next five years in order to save millions of pounds.
Rahab is a service in Berkshire which has had its funding from the Primary Care Trust cut for the next year.
Rahab is a voluntary organisation which works with women affected by prostitution, offering support, advocacy and befriending as part of the Mustard Tree Foundation.
Lorraine Joslin, project manager at the base in the Reading Women's Centre, explained how 90 per cent of funding comes from the partnership development fund which is part of West Berks PCT.
"The rest are donations," she said. "Although they have been few and far between lately due to us wanting to spend as much time with clients and engaging with the women we work with. We spend as little time behind a desk asking for money as possible.
"You cannot provide a service and write lots of applications at the same time, it's one or the other, or one at a different time in order to provide for the other."
Rahab applied to West Berks PCT for funding, but did not receive any for the next year.
"We are worried that things might turn to the place of us being completely reliant on trust funds and charitable bodies but I think hopefully we will be able to engage with the council with things like CDRP (crime and disorder reduction partnership).
"We already work with a number of strategic groups across the council and with other strategic groups to provide things that totally fit their targets - whether it is helping to reduce crime, whether it is helping people to engage in PCT services.
"We are providing a service which already engages people with what is already on offer but is often inaccessible for those at the margins of society
"It is imperative for people who are repressed or kept in a cycle of life that they can't get out of. It is imperative that we engage with them.
"The services are there to provide for them, but we cannot expect them to access things that are totally out of their reach."