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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Mental health charity faces fight for survival

This news post is over 2 years old

North East Edinburgh Counselling Service, which provides vital support to people in the city, needs to raise £80,000

A charity that provides vital mental health counselling to people in Edinburgh is facing a fight for survival.

North East Edinburgh Counselling Service (NEECS) offers professional counselling to anyone over the age of 16 living in North East Edinburgh.

The charity provides an alternative to long NHS waiting lists and private counselling services, the cost of which can be prohibitive for many.

However it is now having to crowdfund to ensure its survival, as funding cuts along with the coronavirus pandemic have placed it in a precarious financial position.

This is despite NEECS seeing a substantial rise in the need for its services during lockdown, with 50 people on its waiting list.

Mairi Norman, NEECS service coordinator, said: “Mental health services are more in demand now than ever. However, the funding to support charitable organisations such as NEECS -- which helps to bridge the gap between supply and demand on NHS services -- has become less available due to the impact of the pandemic on funding sources.

“We know our service changes lives and has supported countless people in North East Edinburgh through various challenges and struggles over the past 25 years.

“Raising this money we need will allow NEECS to continue to fulfil its vital role in the North East Edinburgh community and to support people who are seeking help.”

In 2020/21, the charity’s six counsellors provided 725 sessions to clients.

As a charity, NEECS relies on grants, fundraising activities and client contributions, which range from £5-£45 depending on what each client can afford. NEECS was funded by Edinburgh Council until November 2019, but since then has struggled to secure long-term funding.

The pandemic has meant alternative funding sources are scarce and the charity must now raise £80,000 to meet its financial shortfall and continue to provide an essential service to the local community.

Jessica Crichton, chair of NEECS, said: “Because we lost such a large chunk of our income, as a relatively small organisation, it’s been really difficult to find larger amounts in funding. We’ve been successful in a couple of applications to smaller trusts, which we’re really grateful for, but those grants of a few thousand pounds are not enough to sustain us in the longer term.”

NEECS supports people with a wide range of mental health needs. Waiting lists for counselling services on the NHS can be up to two years, so the service that NEECS offers makes counselling much more accessible for people who require direct and urgent support with their mental health.

NEECS has a Young Persons Service that offers counselling to people between the ages of 16 to 25. All those who access the charity’s service are only asked to make a contribution to the costs of their counselling, with many not having to pay.

A client who has received support said: “My mental health and overall wellbeing have improved beyond my expectations. My counsellor has helped me to rebuild my life -- a life where I have a choice and I am no longer a helpless victim of bad circumstances.”

NEECS has been operating in North East Edinburgh for more than 25 years and in that time has helped hundreds of people.

Previously, the charity was based in Haddington Place, but all operations are now remote and all sessions take place via video call or telephone. Due to the financial challenges facing NEECS, the decision was taken to close its premises, but the charity hopes to return to renting premises and offering a face-to-face service when funding is secure.

The charity has launched a crowdfunding campaign in a bid to raise £80,000 to help it survive.

A donation of £5 pays for telephone and internet per day, £25 pays for a counselling session, and raising the full sum of £80,000 will ensure that NEECS is able to continue offering counselling and support to people in North East Edinburgh for the next year.