Lifeline lost - Charity breaks away amid fears funds flowing out of region

A MUCH-LOVED local charity has dramatically broken away from its governing body after concerns its funds were being funnelled out of the region.

NEW BEGINNING: Lifeline North West board chairman Geoffrey Furlong, left, with Lifeline North West chief executive officer Michael Ticehurst outside the 
Tamworth shop yesterday. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 260814GOA01

NEW BEGINNING: Lifeline North West board chairman Geoffrey Furlong, left, with Lifeline North West chief executive officer Michael Ticehurst outside the Tamworth shop yesterday. Photo: Geoff O’Neill 260814GOA01

Lifeline North West yesterday announced it would end its 42-year association with Lifeline and rebrand itself as One of a Kind Community Support.

It comes amid revelations 95 per cent of locally-raised funds were being used to help run a Lifeline crisis phone service rather than looking after local communities.

Lifeline North West chief executive officer Michael Ticehurst said there was no animosity behind the name change.

But Lifeline Australia, because it received most of its funding from the federal government, was demanding that “key performance indicators” be met and had asked Lifeline North West “to adopt governance and management practices which are just not possible for small volunteer charities due to their voluntary nature and limited financial capacity”, a notice to its volunteers said. 

“In 2007, all of the Lifeline centres became part of the national call grid,” he said.

“We were committing all our funds to just one aspect of what Lifeline does.

“With change in requirements, we have to spend a lot of money ($2500 for the first year’s training) to train our counsellors.”

He said Lifeline North West had a total of 30 phone counselling volunteers, down from a top of 80.

“The new standards would have meant we would have had to have had 110 in place,” Mr Ticehurst said. 

“We understand the pressures of what’s happening with Lifeline Australia.

“(But) do we commit to a national agenda or do we commit to a community agenda which is what we were set up to do?”

The name change is being phased in over the next week at the Tamworth, Narrabri and Armidale offices and opportunity shops and will be rolled out at Moree some time in the future.

Mr Ticehurst said there would be no impact on callers to the Lifeline 13 11 14 crisis number: people would still be able to access it.

A new, local non-crisis number would also be set up by November to help people in the North West region with things like neighbourhood support, loneliness, counselling for young mothers and budgeting tips.

The offices in Tamworth, Narrabri and Armidale would now be set up as community centres offering neighbourhood support programs and facilities for up to seven small community groups, he said.

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