A LEADING organisation which has been providing help to vulnerable women battling alcohol addiction in the borough for more than two decades has lost its contract to run adult services.
The Willow Project will close its doors at the end of this month after a tendering bid to run treatment programmes for adults was won by national organisation Addaction.
The project, which has provided a bespoke service for women battling the demon drink for 22 years, will continue to run programmes for young people after securing funding from an international foundation, and will be looking to find suitable new premises.
However, service manager Jean Coates-Topping says staff at the centre feel angry about the way the tendering process was carried out and believe they never stood a chance of winning the contract after the loss of funding from Wigan Council.
She said: “The commissioning and procurement decisions being made by Wigan Council resulted in Willow been unable to meet the financial risk assessment which opened the door to regional and national competitors being awarded the contract.
“The tendering process is not a level playing field. We went to a meeting with potential providers and it was clear our turnover wasn’t big enough.
“The women we have informed are devastated about the loss of the service and feel let down as these decisions have been taken without any consultation.”
Although the adult treatment programme will come to an end on March 28, the project hopes to continue its counselling services for young people affected by the alcoholism of a family member thanks to funding from the Foundation Ramon Molinas.
Jean says that, in the wake of the local authority’s decision, the grant from such a prestigious organisation, whose work includes schemes supporting refugees in Spain and anti-addiction programmes in Serbia, has added to staff frustration.
She said: “The most annoying thing is we have built this up from a time when services were not female friendly at all. Now the money has been withdrawn and we’ve been told someone else can provide the services, it’s a real kick in the teeth.”
Stuart Cowley, director of adult social care and health at Wigan Council, said: “I’d like to thank Willow Project for all their hard work over the years.
“We constantly review the efficiency of our services to ensure value for money and quality to residents.
“Our new providers Addaction and Greater Manchester West NHS Foundation Trust fulfil this ambition, bringing valuable experience and innovation. As they begin working in the borough they will be looking to develop partnerships with local community organisations to achieve positive outcomes for those affected by drugs and alcohol in the borough.”