Thursday, 26 November 2015

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Cash crisis at Carlisle charity for vulnerable youngsters

A charity which offers vital support to vulnerable young people in north Cumbria will close within months if it fails to find new funding.

Carlisle Key last year directly helped more than 600 young adults, 80 per cent of them homeless and struggling to pay for basics such as food.

But a looming cash crisis means the charity will have to close by November, says Julie Spence, who manages the increasingly busy charity from its Warwick Road headquaters.

“We’re seeing between 15 and 20 young people every afternoon we’re open, and last year helped 603,” she said.

“If we can’t find any new funding we’ll be going into the red by November and that means we’ll no longer be able to provide these services.

“But the message we need to send out is that we need to keep these services. Young people need this support.

“We’re seeing a lot of homelessness, more benefit issues, and more poverty – young people going without food, or trying to make what food they have stretch. A lot more people are having sanctions put on their benefits for various reasons.”

In order to keep going, the charity, which employs Julie and two others, needs £60,000 a year, but charities everywhere are competing for a dwindling number of grants.

Carlisle Key’s services include emergency food parcels, benefits advice, and a drop-in for people aged 16 to 25.

Julie said the funding crisis has come amid a surge in demand for the charity’s services.

Describing one young homeless couple being helped, she said: “They arrived here with all their possessions crammed into a suitcase. Quite often, if people are homeless and they don’t have a local connection, they’re told they can’t be helped.”

The charity’s drop-in centre was yesterday packed with young people, many of them keen to describe how Carlisle Key has made a huge difference to their lives.

They included 20-year-old Danielle Flannery and her boyfriend – the homeless couple referred to by Julie. They currently live in a tent.

“I’ve never been in this situation before and I just don’t feel safe,” said Danielle.

“I just want to have my own place so I can feel secure, and maybe even a job. I didn’t believe that people could be just abandoned in this way.”

Her boyfriend added: “With what’s happened to us I’ve lost my confidence and trust in people. The biggest shock has been how difficult it has been to get help for something that wasn’t my fault. Here, at Carlisle Key, they’ve done a lot to help us.”

That view was endorsed by several others using the drop-in.

Sophie Blaylock, 22, recalled how when she left the care system at 18 she found herself homeless. Forced to move from friend to friend as she ‘sofa surfed’ for six months, she was left depressed and lost all her belongings.

“But Julie has been like a mam to me,” she said. “There’s nobody else I could have turned to when I went through domestic violence.”

Amy ‘Pie’ Sellars, also 22, said: “A lot of young people use this service. Some don’t have a clue when it comes to sorting out benefits, or housing, and they need help.”

Danny Barker, 21, said: “It’s amazing. It’s a great place for young people who need help with anything.”

The charity is coming to the end of funding from The Francis C Scott Charitable Trust (£20,000 over two years); The Garfield Weston Foundation (£15,000 over two years); The Hadfield Trust (£2,500); the Mayor of Carlisle’s Fund (£5,500); and the Northern Rock Foundation (£45,000 over three years).

Anybody who can help should contact Carlisle Key on 01228 595566 or email them at


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