Huge rise in calls to support Sheffield charity

Samaritans 'On the phone to the samaritans
Samaritans 'On the phone to the samaritans
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MONEY worries and family breakdowns have led to an increase in demand for a service which offers a lifeline to people in Sheffield.

The city’s branch of The Samaritans has received 30,000 calls so far this year, just midway through its busiest month.

Figures are up on last year’s total of 28,000 and are growing year-on-year as the recession continues to bite – with the number of people calling about cash worries more than doubling since 2008.

Changes to welfare benefits has proven one of the biggest contributing factors for the rise in the number of callers who contacted the team of 120 volunteers based at the Queen’s Road centre.

People manning the phones say unemployment and money problems are leading to a surge in family breakdowns.

The charity set up a text service earlier this year to help cope with the increased demand.

Andrea Day, branch director at Sheffield Samaritans, said: “It’s getting worse every year. One of the biggest problems we’ve seen is people worrying about benefit cuts. They are being reassessed for disability and possibly losing those benefits despite still being severely disabled.

“The economic squeeze is continuing and leading to a lot of family breakdown.

“That break-up of relationships and families leads to isolation and estrangement, a lot turn to drinking or drug taking to try and block out their problems.

“The people ringing us are in desperate situations. They cannot make ends meet. They feel they’re letting their family down or don’t know how they are going to manage for food and clothing.”

The charity is particularly worried about middle-aged men in Sheffield – identified as at highest risk of suicide – as more and more men who have always been the main breadwinner in families find themselves out-of-work.

Andrea, also a volunteer, said: “We hear from men who might have been made redundant and feel they won’t get another job because of their age. It’s very hard for them to feel they are letting their family down. We’ve been trying to target that group.”

She added Christmas was very busy as financial problems for families escalated and people tried to cope with a first Christmas without a loved one.

“People find it difficult for all sorts of reasons,” said Andrea.

n To contact Samaritans call 08457 90 90 90 or visit {http://www.samaritans.org/|Samaritans|click here for information. The Sheffield branch HQ is open from 10am until 10pm daily.