BY CALUM FRASER
Vulnerable children and adults providing care are at risk as a charity service that has run for more than 30 years is under threat.
A funding appeal has been launched to save Forest Hill-based charity Carers Lewisham.
Carers Lewisham provides services to carers, helping them back into work, offering support and giving advice on how to overcome the challenges they face.
Cathy Collymore, a carers’ support officer who has supported carers for more than 20 years, said: “The news that we may not be able to provide counselling to carers in the future came as a complete shock to everyone here.
“We are distressed and upset to have to turn to our community in the midst of a crisis for our charity.
But, if we don’t manage to raise the money we need, carers in Lewisham using our counselling service will lose what is often their only source of support.
“Our counselling service is staffed by volunteers, many of whom have been carers, and paid staff. We listen to carers every day and at the moment can provide this for free.
“Carers often feel lonely and isolated. We understand the anger, frustration and upset that a life of caring can often lead to.
We are here to help them realise that caring can be just a part of their lives.”
The one-to-one counselling service is under threat because, unlike the information and advice service, it isn’t funded by the council and relies on the public to keep it going.
Sybil Carey, a carer who has used the service, said: “This helped me come to terms with the hurt and loss I was feeling because I felt cheated out of a life I looked forward to when I retired.
I have lost my husband to dementia and I felt bereaved and isolated. “Carers Lewisham has helped me to keep my sanity and give me prospective.
Losing the counselling service will devastate a lot of carers.
I am now caring for my husband happily and feel reassured that the service is there if I need it.”
Another beneficiary of the counselling service is Jacqui Cook, a trustee for Carers Lewisham.
Jacqui said: “I came to Carers Lewisham over 15 years ago and made use of the counselling service. I was in a bad way emotionally and financially and didn’t know where to turn to.
The service let me talk through my problems, to actually say things out loud that I had been bottling up for ages.”
Carers Lewisham’s chairwoman Val Fulcher said: “This is a highly distressing situation for a vital local charity who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in danger of losing this service for carers.
“We are doing all we can to save our counselling service.
Even our new interim chief executive will be joining our group of volunteers over December and January to help solve this problem, as we can’t afford to pay him.”
To support the campaign to save Carer’s Lewisham’s Counselling Service, visit their website www.carerslewisham.org.uk or call 0208 699 8686.