A busy day at the Relate office
Downturn sparking an upturn in family feuds?
Shropshire's relationship service Relate, says its workload has doubled since the onset of the economic downturn, and it expects to get even busier as the recession takes hold.
Relate is the UK's largest provider of relationship counselling and sex therapy. The Shropshire and Herefordshire branch, based in Shrewsbury, has 34 counsellors.
In an average month Relate deals with 300 adult appointments, and 500 - 600 child appointments through its schools service Relateen.
'The phones have been solid'
Chief Executive Lyn Foley has worked at the branch for 18 years and has rarely seen it so hectic.
She says they're always busy after Christmas, because of families spending time together over the holiday, but she says it's not normally busy before Christmas as well.
"We are absolutely rushed off our feet... we've been exceptionally busy," Lyn said. In December and January, she estimates that their workload increased by 50 percent.
Is the economic downturn to blame?
The economic situation is putting families under enormous pressure, according to Lyn. "If you've got a relationship which isn't solid, then the current situation is going to put you under more pressure."
Practice consultant, Liz Todd doesn't believe the increase in people coming to them for help, can be put solely down to the credit crunch, but believes that as more people lose their jobs, their workload will increase further.
"Money worries come into virtually every case we see," she explained. Liz says she's seen a lot of difficulties particularly in the farming community.
Another area where she anticipates problems is parents trying to pay school fees: "If children are at boarding school, you've been able to pay for that, then suddenly you can't, it has huge implications."
The Chief Constable of West Mercia Police, Paul West believes the depressed economy will have a greater impact on domestic crime, than burglaries and robberies.
He said: "Increased tension at home will have the potential for increased domestic abuse. My own guess is that this is where we are more likely to see an impact on calls for our service."
The Shropshire branch of the group Women's Aid, which campaigns to end domestic abuse, say it understands Paul West's comments but emphasises that money problems don't make non-violent people violent, but could act as a trigger for those who are already violent.
'What are bailiffs?'
A large part of Relate's work in Shrewsbury is taken up by Relateen, a counselling service for children aged 11 - 16 years, which has been running for about five years.
Relateen counsellor Elaine Dayton says for someone losing their job, the implications are huge: the loss of self-esteem, having to go out and find work, the threat of losing your home.
The children pick up on what's happening, but they don't know how to help. One child said to her: "We've got to move home...what are bailiffs?"
Few are immune to the credit crunch
Relate has to make sure its finances don't dry up. Money from local authorities for services like Relateen and life skills courses, help pay the bills. Relate dloes its own fundraising and has five charity shops.
Relate charges fees for adult sessions, but counsellor Liz Todd says it's often people who are least able to pay, who need support the most. "Society needs to look at that," she says. The service costs £45 an hour, but rates vary for those on low incomes.
Thankfully for Relate, the downturn isn't hurting everyone. There were celebrations recently when an anonymous donor handed over a cheque for £1,000.
Like many who've had involvement with Relate, the donor was impressed with the charity and wants the organisation to prosper in these times of financial insecurity.
last updated: 23/01/2009 at 08:21