THE founder of Victim Support in County Durham has expressed his concerns about proposed changes to the charity.

Tom Peacock was senior probation officer in Darlington in 1979 when he started Victim Support in the town, the first in County Durham, to help victims of crime.

With the involvement of police officers, justices' clerks, social services and some determined volunteers, the charity grew until it had offices across the county.

But now the office in Duke Street, Darlington, has been earmarked for closure in a restructuring scheme, sparking some bad feelings among volunteers and staff, which has left Mr Peacock concerned for the charity's future.

If agreed, the scheme would see offices in Consett, Chester-le-Street, Peterlee, Bishop Auckland and Darlington close, with replacement outreach offices opened in their place.

This would leave two administrative centres, one in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, and the other in Durham City.

The charity's 125 volunteers would continue with their work, but about 15 employees at the offices facing closure could be made redundant.

Mr Peacock, who was chairman of the charity in County Durham until 1995, said: "I just don't feel that those who have suggested this have really thought through what the consequences are.

"If it goes ahead as suggested, I think we will find some very angry volunteers who may say they will give up - what will happen then to the victims in Darlington and County Durham? And that disturbs me greatly."

However, Dr Glen Reynolds, spokesman for Victim Support County Durham, said the proposals had been made due to financial problems and to ensure the charity's survival.

"This is Chinese whispers and it is not helping the volunteers, the staff, or the charity's future. Anyone who has anything to say about what is going on needs to convey their concerns to the people involved in the consultation process," he said.

The consultation process will end on Wednesday when a final decision on the future of the offices and any job losses will be made.