A vital support service for youngsters across the Highlands has pulled the plug on operations from its Inverness base after 30 years.
Children 1st, who offer family support services to those suffering as a result of poverty, mental illness, alcohol and trauma, have been forced to shut their doors on Longman Road due to the lack of “sustainable funding” after having the bulk of its funding cut.
Highland Council is the biggest funder of the charity and last year they provided £72,000 to assist in the running of Children 1st’s family support and kinship care service, with the charity also contributing £88,000 of voluntary raised income into the Inverness service.
The charity estimates the equivalent of three-and-a-half staff have been affected by the closure.
The move to shut up shop in the Highland’s comes just weeks after Children 1st announced it would have to shut up shop in Aberdeen by the end of May due to a lack of funds.
The national charity has said its Aberdeen premises in North Silver Street could close as it looks to “redevelop” the services it provides after losing its core funding from Aberdeen City Council two years ago.
Mary Glasgow, chief executive of Children 1st, said: “In Inverness, we have had to make the difficult decision to close the service we currently provide for children and families because it lacks sustainable funding.
“Last year we invested heavily in the Inverness service to ensure that we were delivering safe, quality services that make a real difference to children’s lives. Without the commitment of sufficient levels of core local funding, this cannot be sustained.
“Children 1st have worked in Inverness for 30 years and are committed to continuing to be there for children and families across Highland.
“We are in ongoing discussions with partners, including Highland Council, about the potential for a new and lasting service in Inverness that best meets the needs of local children and families.”
A Highland Council spokesman confirmed that talks with the group were “ongoing”.
Families who have previously used the services offered by Children 1st have now been referred to other agencies, with Highland Council made aware of their needs.
Yesterday, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes vowed to fight for a solution to ensure children are able to access services across the region.
Ms Forbes said: “It has never been more pressing to have a safe, stable and caring service for families and young people in the Highlands.
“More foster carers and support are always needed in the Highlands and I am keen to explore with Highland Council and charities like Children 1st how we work to support the most vulnerable, young people in the Highlands.”