Fears over future of Leeds counselling centre

Concerns have been raised about plans to close a "unique" centre for people needing urgent counselling.

The Headingley-based Leeds Crisis Centre helps those who are in extreme distress.

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Its future is under threat because of a proposed reorganisation of mental health day services provided by Leeds City Council, which cost 2.8m a year to run.

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The council says many services are duplicated by other bodies and the authority is facing an unprecedented funding squeeze.

A decision was due to be made last month, but has been delayed for more talks to take place.

Sarah Parker, who is doing a student placement at the centre, said that

the services it offered were unique.

"There's absolutely nothing like it in Leeds. There's no short-term crisis counselling service," she said.

Ms Parker, who is studying for a diploma in therapeutic counselling at Leeds Metropolitan University, added: "It's no exaggeration to say lives have been saved, they have stopped people from having to go into hospital. Closing it would take away a valuable resource."

Jeremy Pritlove, who help found the Crisis Centre over 20 years ago, said: "It's irreplaceable - there's nothing equivalent. It will leave a huge gap if it goes.

"When we set it up we knew about people who were suffering because there was nowhere else to go. Hundreds of people have benefited from it."

Coun Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care, said the NHS had invested heavily in mental health counselling recently.

She said: "This has resulted in duplication of mental health care services in the city, a situation which is not sustainable in the current financial climate.

"Providing a counselling service is not a statutory obligation of the council, and with significant provision existing in the NHS and the voluntary sector, we need to consider if continuing to operate the Crisis Centre is the best use of public funds."