Lifeline Central West avoids closure over funding crisis

TRAINING DROUGHT: Lifeline Central West executive director Alex Ferguson is being forced to pull back on the training of telephone crisis supporters because of a funding crisis.

TRAINING DROUGHT: Lifeline Central West executive director Alex Ferguson is being forced to pull back on the training of telephone crisis supporters because of a funding crisis.

The Dubbo centre of Lifeline Central West (LLCW) has dodged closure as it rows with Lifeline Australia over funding.

LLCW executive director Alex Ferguson revealed the Dubbo and Orange centres, operating for 16 and 33 years respectively, had an uncertain future and little money to train volunteers.

The lack of cash has also forced the axing of the successful Soar, Ride and Shine airshow in Bathurst.

Mr Ferguson said Lifeline Australia administered the $2 million provided annually by the state government with each Lifeline centre receiving $100,000.

He said Lifeline Australia treated the Dubbo, Orange and Bathurst centres as one centre, forcing them to share $100,000.

Mr Ferguson said efforts to elicit more funding from Lifeline Australia had failed and a crisis meeting of LLCW this week considered closing the Dubbo and Orange centres.

Mr Ferguson said because the three centres were treated as one, LLCW had missed out on $800,000 in the past four years.

“Unless a resolution between LLCW and Lifeline Australia can be brokered, LLCW will likely lose another significant amount of funding,” he said.

“This will impact LLCW’s work in an area where the statistics show that the rate of suicide alone is almost three times greater than in the cities.”

Mr Ferguson said most funding went to Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.

“LLCW will be lucky to maintain current service levels,” he said.

Lifeline Central West supports the Central West and North West Region of NSW, providing service to 720,000 people. 

The Dubbo centre is run by about 22 telephone crisis supporters, trained at a total cost of $66,000.

A resolution in the form of public intervention by the state government was not forthcoming with the office of NSW Mental Health Minister Pru Goward referring media to Lifeline Australia.

Plans to train up to 50 more in 2017 are on hold. Mr Ferguson said 25 per cent of volunteers left each year and LLCW would struggle to train replacements.

A Lifeline Australia spokesperson said the funding arrangement in place since 2012 would be reviewed.

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