Leeds charity's funding appeal after demand forces closure of counselling waiting list

The charity supporters women and girls in Leeds who have experienced sexual violence. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire
The charity supporters women and girls in Leeds who have experienced sexual violence. Picture: Anna Gowthorpe/PA Wire

A Leeds charity is appealing for donations to help fund its specialist services for women and girls as it struggles to cope with demand for counselling.

Support after Rape and Sexual Violence Leeds (SARSVL) was forced to close its waiting list before Christmas due to the number of referrals, although its helpline service and independent advocacy service are still taking on new cases.

Helen Hawney, of SARSVL, said: “The counselling waiting list is currently closed so we can just try to manage demand.

“Unfortunately, demand is really high and we’re a very small team. We cover the whole of Leeds district so there’s always going to be really high demand but in this harsh funding climate, it’s the only way we can manage things.”

Read more: Leeds rape survivors’ urgent need for independent counselling service
It costs £5 to keep the confidential helpline open for one hour and £25 to fund 30 minutes of face-to-face support with a specially trained sexual violence advocate.

Helen said: “I come from an arts background and there’s lots of funds you can go to, but if you’re supporting victims of sexual abuse and violence, it’s a smaller pool.”

Funding from the Ministry of Justice and West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner is continuing in 2018/19, along with new funds from the Brelms Trust and the Brook Trust.

But major three-year grants from Comic Relief and the Big Lottery Fund end shortly.

Read more: Making a stand for rape victims in Yorkshire
Another challenge for the charity is the stigma surrounding sexual violence, which can make it harder for people to give public support for its work.

But SARSVL hopes to raise £1,500 with an online appeal, where donations can by made anonymously.

One donor wrote: “I only wish I could give you more. The services you provide on a shoestring budget for the women of Leeds deserves to be fully funded. Your service is vital and long may it continue.”

How to make a donation

Visit the Support Survivors appeal page to make a donation online.

Text TALK33 £5 OR TALK33 £10 to 70070 to donate a quick £5 or £10.

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