MORE people with mental health needs will be able to earn computer qualifications thanks to lottery funding.

Darlington Mind has won £98,112 grant from the Big Lottery Fund to finance its training for another three years.

The money will help to double the number of full-time instructors to two at the White Dove Information and Communication Technology project.

The project, which was launched in 1995, trains people with mental health related difficulties to enable them to pursue training, employment and volunteering opportunities.

The three-year grant will fund one full-time tutor and go towards the costs of a second. The balance will come from an existing contract with Darlington Borough Council's social services department.

Staff hope to train 100 people and give out more than 60 European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) qualifications during the funding period.

The ECDL is an internationally-recognised computer literacy award, which the project offers to inexperienced computer users.

Instructors Calvin Pitt and Mark Gardener said: "We are absolutely delighted that our valuable and unique service can continue to offer ICT training to a group of people who are disadvantaged by mental health issues.

"This funding allows the qualification training to continue for a further three years benefiting students, their families and the community as a whole."

Donna Mear, a service user, said: "I am thrilled that such a worthwhile project as the White Dove computer project has secured this funding. It is much deserved.

"Having benefited from the course myself, I am delighted to think that the project can continue to provide such a valuable service to its clients.

"The way the course is taught and delivered makes it much more than a computer project. Participants gain confidence, self-esteem and a sense of pride. People have had their dignity restored as they are equipped and enabled to fulfill their potential in life and work."

For more information about the project contact (01325) 283169.