Funding threat looms over ‘Good Morning Ballycastle’

THE co-ordinator of the life-saving ‘Good Morning Ballycastle’ telephone scheme has made a plea for funding to enable the service to continue, writes Nevin Farrell.

Kate Elliott says the organisation is in a funding limbo at the moment and are holding out hope that the Northern Health Board come up with vital funding before the end of June.

An announcement may be , Ms Elliott told the Times but in the mean time the service - which sees over 100 calls being made each day to elderly and vulnerable people throughout the Moyle area from Waterfoot to Bushmills - will continue with funding from a number of sources including the PSNI, Lloyds TSB and the TBF Thompson Trust.

The Good Morning Ballycastle scheme was set up in 2007 through the Ballycastle Church Action Group and funds are also raised through local churches and Ballycastle Rotary Club is also chipping in to raise funds.

Good Morning Ballycastle, offers a friendly voice on the phone, to people living alone. This free telephone care and alert scheme is aimed at reducing fears of vulnerability and isolation experienced by many people in our communities.

The scheme provides a free and confidential telephone care/alert scheme for older people living within the area.

Good Morning Ballycastle is aimed at reducing the feeling of fear, vulnerability and isolation experienced by many.

A team of volunteers contact members by phone for a chat and to check on their well-being and one of the biggest costs is obviously the huge phone bill.

A pre-arranged time is agreed on so that it fits with the member’s daily schedule and if they do not answer, the Good Morning volunteer will alert the nominated contact or alternatively the police and other services.

Kate Elliott said: “The scheme has saved lives. One woman did not answer and it was discovered she had a stroke.”

But ‘Good Morning Ballycastle’ has not received any funding from Moyle District Council.

Ms Elliott told the Times: “We are struggling for funding and although I don’t want to scaremonger we have been running on a shoestring budget since last October when the three years funding we received from the then Northern Health Board since we started in 2007, stopped.

“Efforts are still continuing to get funding from the Northern Health Board and a decision is expected possibly in April but before the end of June at the latest. We are hanging on a pendulum and it is vital that funding comes from the Trust.

“That is why we need every penny we can get but we have not received anything from Moyle Council. We got a letter from the Council recently saying the Council had no money set aside for us but there are 23 ‘Good Morning’ services in Northern Ireland and we are the only one not to receive funding from their local council.”

At a meeting of Moyle Council last week, Ulster Unionist councillor Willie Graham said it was “so disappointing” Good Morning Ballycastle received a letter from the Council saying they will not qualify for a grant for running costs and he claimed: “They may have to close early because of funding. They are saving lives and saving old people.”

Kate Elliott said it is unlikely they will close but said a funding boost is needed soon.

Cllr Graham added: “I believe we are the only Council that doesn’t support this type of thing when we can afford to throw £3,000 at lighting a tree,” said Cllr Graham.

That was a reference to a £3,000 cost to ratepayers to put lights on a tree at Ballycastle seafront which Cllr Graham previously branded the ‘most expensive tree in Moyle’.

Cllr Robert McIlroy (DUP) said it was also disappointing that Ulster Unionist Health Minister Michael McGimpsey “didn’t find money for voluntary groups”.