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A Christian team that patrols the infamous suicide site at Beachy Head, East Sussex, saving hundreds of lives each year, may be disbanded due to lack of funding.
Redundancy notices have been issued to four of the six permanent staff of the Beachy Head Chaplaincy Team (BHCT). The team has saved more than 2,000 lives since it began operations in 2004 and demand for the service has continued to grow. Last year it dissuaded 364 people from committing suicide.
The team of around 20 people carries out patrols 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It also acts on alerts from the police and others about possible suicides.
The number who take their lives by jumping some 530ft from the sheer chalk cliff to the beach below has remained steady over the years. Thirty-three died last year, compared to 29 and 32 for the preceding two years.
The BHCT team director, Mark Pybus, lamented the lack of funding on Tuesday when he learned that the charity is to receive a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. He underlined the urgency of the situation, saying that if the money cannot be raised then he will have to sell the vehicles needed to do the work, thereby bringing the service to an end.
“We’re not crying wolf. My accountant said that unless the situation changes by the end of June we have to act and that means winding down,” said Mr Pybus.
In order to continue operating, the BHCT needs to secure £50,000 to meet existing bills, then obtain a regular income of £15,000 a month to support the six permanent staff and 14 volunteers who undertake the work. The team presently receives around £4,000 a month but the income is irregular, being dependent almost entirely on individual donations.