It is sad that, in spite of top level commitment to user involvement and community engagement, funding cuts mean charities including Speakeasy are having to seek income through routes such as the NatWest CommunityForce, where entrants are in competition for public online votes to win £6000.
Speakeasy was established in Bury almost 30 years ago with support from both social services and the NHS. Over the years the social services support was gradually withdrawn, but the primary care trust financed core services to which Speakeasy added a range of project work such as developing employment opportunities, computer therapy and piloting new approaches for people with aphasia.
Gill Pearl, Chief Executive of Speakeasy, wrote an article for the Winter 10 issue of Speech & Language Therapy in Practice with Gill Jackson of Dyscover, a specialist aphasia charity in Surrey. They described a pilot study of the Personal Development Programme, which promotes volunteering and increased activity among people with aphasia, bringing wide-ranging benefits to the participating individuals and their communities.
Gill explains, "Speakeasy has developed a justifiable reputation as a centre of excellence where people with aphasia from across the North West grow the skills to better navigate their lives with aphasia. In summer 2011, Speakeasy received the devastating news that the PCT had decided to withdraw 100 per cent of its financial support. This loss of funding may close Speakeasy. Although every effort is being made to seek alternative funds, the current financial climate and changes in the health and social care sectors are compounding the difficulties."
I have registered and cast a vote to support Speakeasy's attempts to win £6000 of stop-gap funding and hope other people who have an interest in aphasia will do so too before the closing date of 23 October. This doesn't have to mean that I like the recent trend among big companies to use social media to advertise their products. Such methods certainly will not provide a sustainable approach to funding of charities who provide important services that complement and enhance those offered by health and social care.