A north charity that has helped thousands of people in to work over the past 25 years has been forced to suddenly close its doors, resulting in 17 job losses and a “huge hole” in service provision.
The Shirlie Project has been in operation since 1994 and has provided support to thousands of people with disabilities or disadvantage across the Highlands to enable them to fulfil their ambitions and get jobs.
However, directors have been forced to cease trading due to “immediate cash flow issues”.
The decision to shut up shop affects 17 members of staff across its four offices in Inverness, Alness, Fort William and Thurso.
Now, insolvency experts Begbies Traynor have been drafted in to carry out the relevant procedures after all potential rescue routes were exhausted.
A spokesman for the liquidators said: “The provisional liquidators will be working with the management team and all relevant organisations to ensure that the Shirlie Project’s staff and the clients are supported throughout this process.
“All at the Shirlie Project wish to thank their many funders, suppliers and employers for their engagement and support over the years. We wish all our clients and trainees the best for the future.”
Other organisations have now signalled their intent to provide a lifeline to service users, with AbilityNet and Engage Scotland stepping forward.
Chris Grant, a volunteer with AbilityNet, said: “We have offered our assistance to the client base of the Shirlie Project to ensure access to services remains.
“The work of the Shirlie Project has been just fantastic and we were saddened to hear that they have been placed into liquidation. It can’t have been an easy decision to make.
“Our volunteers will offer their help where we can by providing free technical support and advice to those older people and/or people with a disability of any kind, to keep them connected.”
A huge part of the charities work has been to support people with additional support needs into work by providing one-to-one employment focused assistance.
Councillor Bet McAllister, who has worked closely with the group over the years, said: “It is going to leave a huge hole.
“I am very disappointed and just stunned. The Shirlie Project has delivered a fantastic service over the years and they will be sadly missed.
“I don’t know of any other group who could try and replicate things on the same scale.
“This is another third-sector group that has now gone and we have to provide support those who use the service, the staff and their families.”
Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes added: “I am deeply sorry to hear that the Shirlie Project has entered liquidation and my thoughts are with the staff, service users and their friends and families at this worrying time.
“The project has provided invaluable and important work across the Highlands for young people, and it will be a big loss.”