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Beachy Head chaplaincy faces funding crisis

06 June 2014

SHUTTERSTOCK

A CHAPLAINCY team that offers help to potential victims at one of the most notorious suicide sites in the UK is facing closure.

The Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team (BHCT), which patrols the 530-foot-high cliffs of Beachy Head, on the Sussex coast (News, 20 September 2013), needs £15,000 by the end of this month, and £50,000 over the next three months, to continue its work. The news comes as this week it was announced that the team had won the Queen's Award for Voluntary Services.

Its director, Mark Pybus, told the Brighton Argus: "If we don't get a significant amount of funding by the end of June, we might not be here. It takes £200,000 a year to run the service, and we can't get core funding at the moment, that's the issue. If we don't exist, there'll be more deaths.

"We face the prospect of having to sell off its equipment to pay wages, and if that happened the service would have to end."

Last year, the BHCT, a charity that has been running for almost a decade, was involved in 865 searches - an increase of 12 per cent on the previous year - and helped 364 people. Since it was founded, in August 2004, it has responded to about 6500 incidents, and carried out 2500 rescues. Its first call-out came less than 40 minutes after the team went "live".

It is a Christian chaplaincy, specialising in crisis intervention as well as search and rescue. It works with the police and the Coastguard.

Mr Pybus said: "This is not a 'cry wolf' situation: we are in very real danger, which is a real shame, as many, many people tell us that the work of our team is highly respected and valued."

The chaplaincy conducts routine searches, and responds to tips about potential suicide from the emergency services, coastguard, the local pub, and the public. Not all searches result in a person being found.

Its 14-strong team of volunteers are trained negotiators who to try to establish connections with despondent people.

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