AN advocate for people with neurological conditions has warned that her community is growing ever more vulnerable because of coronavirus.

Joanne Cole, head of operations for the Tees Valley, Durham and North Yorkshire Neurological Alliance says that austerity-led cuts to funding and the increased danger of the pandemic are a double blow for the 36,000 people living with a neurological condition in the region.

Ms Cole said: “In 2012, the World Health Organisation said neurological conditions are the leading cause of disability in the UK. Sadly, people with neurological conditions, injury or impairment are used to being isolated. They are often hidden out of the way and so are their caregivers. That’s where the problems start. We are weeks into the pandemic and many are still struggling to find information they need or even find out if they are vulnerable.

“We are working collaboratively with local, regional and national organisations to make sure no-one is being missed and through our bulletins we are reaching around 900 people with relevant information.”

The Alliance recently received £5,000 from County Durham Community Foundation to fund support for people with neurological conditions through the pandemic.

The regional charity is now the furthest north of its kind, but since 2016 it has lost more than 50 per cent of funding. Ordinarily, the group runs peer support groups, delivers an education programme for universities, collates service user lived experiences to form learning tools, and advocates for those in need for welfare benefits or employment issues.

Joanne said: “With this funding, we can keep an eye out for people and report who needs what and highlight the gaps in the infrastructure that isolate people away from the information they need. We are happy to be a small charity because that means we can stay on the ground floor.

“People fear they will be left behind. Not just during the pandemic, but afterwards. They were at the sharp end of austerity in the first place and deserve some respect and consideration.”