Established 2005 Registered Charity No. 1110656

Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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February – March 2024 : The little things READ ONLINE

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Birmingham funding cuts hit alcohol service

SIFA Fireside faces closure An alcohol abuse centre in Birmingham is set to close after its funding was withdrawn by the city's council. SIFA Fireside, a 27-bed voluntary programme to help people - many of whom are homeless - become free of alcohol faces imminent closure after losing out in a bidding process. Supporting People, the council's fund-allocation body, aims to help "vulnerable people [..] by providing a stable environment". It determines which charities receive money through a bidding process. But SIFA claimed the bidding system was unfair, as it did not reflect the unique nature of the service offered at their centre, which is the only residential "dry house" in Birmingham. This meant that they were put in the drug and alcohol category, and only allowed to bid for that contract. Also, as they offer accommodation, their costs were higher than the successful bidder who did not plan to offer residential support. Carole Powell, a counsellor at the centre, said: "This project works. I've been here nearly four years and we've had quite a few success stories in that time. That's what makes it all worthwhile, when you can see how much someone's changed, that they've got their confidence again and their lives back on track." Birmingham Council used to provide funding for more than 20 smaller agencies across the city, but has now consolidated this to just two agencies providing accommodation and one for drug and alcohol support. SIFA, which has a residential six-bed alcohol reduction facility and a residential 21 bed "dry" facility, provides 24-hour care support for those battling against alcohol addiction. Yusuf, a resident of the dry house, said: "I know loads of blokes who would love the chance to come here - they're not going to get it. It makes no sense to close this place, the wealth of experience they're going to be losing, they're going to have to start all over again. It's just a short-term financial fix, but they're not going to save in the long run when we're all back in hospital with liver failure." Residents and staff at the centre do not yet know when they will close, which is causing stress and uncertainty. Manager Kim Butler said: "Since the news was announced two months ago, Supporting People still hasn't let us know when the project is actually going to close. They keep changing the date." Supporting People has defended the decision, citing the need to "get value for money".
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