GOVERNMENT welfare reforms have left many North-East charities facing a “perfect storm” of increased demand for help but less income to run services, a study has found.

According to a survey by the Voluntary Organisations Network North East (Vonne), seven in ten organisations have reported an increase in users - but more than half are considering staff cuts.

Of the 140 organisations which responded, 62 per cent said they were using their reserves to fund their work, with 41 per cent only having reserves to last the next three months.

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Vonne said that with the region’s councils making unprecedented budget cuts, many groups had found their funding drastically reduced or pulled altogether.

Jo Curry, chief executive of Vonne, said the future continued to look bleak for many of the region’s charities, with 44 per cent expecting to close a service.

“We now have an ever-growing list of good charities and community groups that have been forced to close.

“The North-East faces a perfect storm of public sector funding cuts and an increase in demand for services.

“As charities' reserves dwindle and staffing levels are cut, the safety net they have provided to vulnerable customers is now full of holes.

“Welfare reform is hitting the North-East hard and charities are fire-fighting with fewer resources to do so. We must act collectively to halt this decline.”

One North-East charity leader told the survey they were finding it difficult to turn people away.

“Social services are decommissioning so many day services that our phones are continually ringing and we are finding ourselves spending many man hours redirecting clients to other suitable services.

“These man-hours are not being funded but, being a charitable organisation and caring about people with mental health problems, we will never turn anyone away.”

Vonne has called for councils and funders to keep investing in the sector through grants.

In response, a spokeswoman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: “We spend £94bn a year on working age benefits and the welfare system supports millions of people every day.

"Our vital reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities.

"These reforms will guarantee a strong welfare safety net, and we are providing councils with £345m across this year and next to support people through these necessary changes."

  • NEW Horizons in Middlesbrough has been running for 42 years but is now facing a bleak future, says general manager Jeannie Bloem.

She said the charity, which helps people with mental health problems, was now totally reliant on personalisation budgets.

This has meant the charity has had to move long-serving and dedicated staff on to zero hour contracts.

Ms Bloem added: “Very little money through this budget allows for administration requirements so staff are bring asked to write reports etc on their own time.

“We almost closed Christmas 2012 but have strived with the help of dedicated staff and volunteers to keep ourselves afloat. Our reserves are almost non existent and leave no margin for security.”

  • THE Moses Project, based in Stockton, provides help and guidance to 755 men with drug and alcohol addictions.

As well as a drop-in centre, the charity hands out 120 food parcels weekly and provide hot meals 25,000 annually.

The charity said it was overwhelmed due to a lack of paid staff and was reliant on clients themselves to help, as well as deal with their own issues.

Director Allan Earl said the charity's future was uncertain.

“Although we save the country probably millions of pounds by dealing with our clients in a new and innovative way we have been unable to secure adequate funding to ensure a sustainable future,” he said.