A CHARITY which helps around 1,000 young people a year in the New Forest who suffer mental health issues is facing closure because it has run out of money due to the pandemic.
It’s Your Choice said it will shut on 7th April after being hit over the last two years by a lack of long-term funding from donations and other income.
Fears have been raised of a “huge detrimental effect” on young people without its influence.
The Totton-based charity was founded 35 years ago to offer youngsters aged 11-25 support with mental and emotional problems, in schools and the wider community.
Mike Taylor, chair of trustees, said: “We have explored all opportunities to identify funding for our vital work to continue beyond March and held off making this decision until it was clear that no agency, such as NHS or children’s services, and no major trust or donor would provide us with the secure income needed.
“This is despite making a strong case for funding and providing detail of the damaging impact the ending of all our services will have on children and young people in the New Forest.”
The charity said there has been a 45% increase in young people seeking help for mental health problems.
It is now working with local agencies to find alternative support, but warned these are also facing financial problems.
Alex Martin, school wellness lead at New Forest Academy in Hardley, said: “The impact of no longer having It’s Your Choice coming into New Forest Academy will have a huge detrimental effect going forward.
“I am very concerned already about mental health across young people, not only within our school but in the wider community.”
Cllr Louise Cerasoli, who represents Totton Central on New Forest District Council, said: “I had no idea this was happening, it has come as a shock. It is very sad if true as it is really the only place kids could go to. It will be a huge loss.”
In a statement announcing its closure, the charity said: “There is not an adequate budget for It’s Your Choice to legally trade beyond early April this year.
“The grants which we have already sourced are not sufficient to guarantee our work and consequently these will not be paid over to us.”
It said trustees have agreed to review the decision to close before the April deadline and, if sufficient funding is found, it could keep going for a further year and find a more “sustainable” income.
The charity said it has applied for further funding but applications for post-pandemic money have been “oversubscribed”.