An award-winning service which helps turn marginalised people’s lives around is facing closure after losing out on vital East Sussex County Council funding.
Reformed East Sussex is in danger of closing its doors in April unless the community can help fund it.
Based in Seaside Road, the community interest organisation was founded by Charmaine Sewell in 2014, and has helped more than 200 people in the past year.
Charmaine said, “This can’t be the end. My team and I have worked so hard to build a service that people really rely on in Eastbourne and beyond, and we’re not going to give up on helping these vulnerable people.
“We found out today (March 6) we had not been shortlisted for innovation funding. Sadly for us that is the final blow. We are all in shock and concerned for the future.”
Reformed East Sussex provides education, training, employment and volunteering opportunities to ex-offenders and recovering addicts.
Charmaine started the project after experiencing first hand the challenges of having a criminal record, and experiencing discrimination related to her past.
In the past year they have helped 1/4 of their clients into work, and continue to support others.
“I’m so upset that we’ve found ourselves in this position,” Charmaine said, “Without continued community support our service will be lost.
“If you can please help us by donating on our website and by spreading the word about us. If everyone in Eastbourne donated £5 Reformed East Sussex could run for more than six years.”
Working with community partners, Reformed East Sussex’s support is focused on intervention, prevention and reduction in offending and substance misuse.
Last year at Eastbourne and District Community Awards the team were awarded the Corporate Social Responsibility Award for their dedication to improving the lives of those suffering issues of social exclusion.
Business manager Sarah Buckley said, “Substance abuse and reoffending is going up, so why cut such a pivotal need?”
They need £25,000 to continue helping people turn their lives around. Visit www.reformedeastsussex.co.uk if you would like to donate.
An East Sussex County Council spokesperson said, “Reformed East Sussex was given funding for a fixed two-year period to the end of April this year, for organisations to deliver innovative and effective services for people with substance misuse issues.
“The organisation did apply for additional funding but unfortunately they weren’t able to demonstrate they had delivered the outcomes that were needed. We have a duty to residents to spend taxpayers’ money wisely and to ensure any funding we provide delivers the outcomes for which it is intended.
“We have recently commissioned new services in this area and are confident these will provide support effectively and efficiently when the contract begins at the start of May, so people with these kind of issues get the best help available.”
The Herald spoke to Sebastian Olivier, 38, who uses the service. He said, “I was in trouble since I was 17, I was in and out of prison, there was never a place like this.
“Then six months ago this place helped me get a job straight away. Probation told me to come here, and they helped me do a CV, then I got a job as a chef straight away.”
Now Sebastian is hoping for a career in construction, and Reformed East Sussex is helping him prepare for his exams. He said, “I feel confident to go for my exams. Without the computers and help here I wouldn’t be able to do it.
“Honestly if it weren’t for this place I wouldn’t know what to do. They have helped me so much. They have motivated me.
“They are friendly, professional, I feel really relaxed and hopeful for my future. I’m going to pass my exams and it’s down to them.”
Julie Branch, 39, was Charmaine’s first ever client, and now she works for Reformed East Sussex.
She said, “I had substance misuse problems and was out of work for a long time. She really helped me getting me into training – I did IT, English and Maths.
“A year ago there was a job going here and she believed in me and gave me a chance.”
The mum said she was “devastated” when she heard the service may close, “I have got a little girl to support, I don’t know what I’m going to do without this. It’s the only proper job I’ve had.
“It’s an amazing service, it’s so good working here. It’s a small team but we all get on really well. The clients seem to really love us, they are always coming back. I’m just in shock.”
To find out more about Reformed East Sussex, visit its website.