SCOTLAND’S oldest community health project is facing imminent closure as a result of cuts by Edinburgh’s heath and social care board.
Pilton Community Health Project, which has been working with some of the country’s most deprived communities for 35 years, was sent an email out of the blue saying it would lose its £220,000 core funding - without any explanation.
Dozens of other community projects could also be forced to shut as the board cuts its grants budget.
A total of 35 organisation who currently receive grants totalling £1.9m a year have not been recommended for renewal.
Pilton Community Health Project - which has 35 staff and 40 volunteers - provides support for woman experiencing family crisis, domestic abuse or mental health issues; runs cookery training to help tackle food poverty; offers adult and youth counselling; manages GP link workers in the area; and helps integrate people from other countries in the community.
There are no plans to replace these services despite high demand and even waiting lists of people looking for support.
Graham Rae, chair of the PCHP board, said: “Our project has proudly served this community and helped thousands of people make positive and long-lasting changes in their lives.”
And co-director Helen Scammell said: “The need is huge in this area. We are a very strong, tightly managed project, well-used and well-respected. We have met all our targets. I just can’t understand it.”
Edinburgh Northern & Leith SNP MSP Ben Macpherson said it was “perverse” that PCHP’s grant should be cut at a time when issues such as mental health and food poverty were at the top of the political agenda. “I have seen for myself the amazing difference that Pilton Community Health Project has made to the people of North Edinburgh.”
PCHP is planning a protest outside the City Chambers on Friday when the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board meets to approve the cuts. The EIJB says it received 152 applications, requesting £31m funding over three years when £14.1m was available. The applications were all scored by a series of three-person panels. And the report said the recommended allocations were “the best pattern of help and support for the most vulnerable citizens”.
But Leith Labour councillor Gordon Munro said the cuts were “terrible news before Christmas”.
He said: “There will be ramifications throughout Edinburgh with groups going under as a consequence. By April, many of these groups are likely to be gone forever.”
And he criticised the way the cuts had been handled. “It was two steps removed from the oversight of councillors with the IJB hiving this off to a star chamber. The report hides more than it gives and needs to be challenged to show the full impact including those who have lost out so that a fully informed decision can be taken.”
Tory health spokesman Phil Doggart said it was inevitable with £31m worth of bids for a £14m pot of money that some groups would be disappointed.
But he said: “It is positive that we have so many organisations around the city that can provide services.”
Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “These grant allocations will come as a massive blow to the 35 organisations who together are losing almost £2 million a year, some of whom are a very well-known in their communities.”
He encouraged the groups to make sure they got full feedback on why their application was unsuccessful and said he hoped bridging funding could be provided to soften the blow.
EIJB chair Councillor Ricky Henderson said: “I’m afraid it’s just part of the world we live in that there’s less money to go round and we need to try to get the best out of the money we have. There is still a massive investment in working with people across the city across a range of different health issues.”