Tough times for Challenge

By LUIS FELIU

ONE of the Tweed's long-serving charities which provides jobs for about 60 people with disabilities is pleading for the community to help it keep its doors open.

Challenge Tweed Incorporated, a not-for-profit organisation which has been operating in the Tweed for almost 20 years, is facing its own challenge to ensure its survival.

Almost a quarter of its 15 permanent staff has been made redundant in the past two years with further redundancies being considered - and six managers have taken a day-aweek pay cut to ensure money is available to pay their workers.

Chief executive Chris Jones said recent changes in government funding meant that his organisation had to earn or raise more than 80 per cent of its income.

And with charity fundraising becoming more competitive, Mr Jones said, Challenge Tweed was struggling to stay afloat - yet demand for its services continued unabated.

The organisation employs most of its 60 disability workers in the Challenge Garden Centre in Quarry Road, Murwillumbah, with the others employed at the EarthStar Food manufacturing factory, the Challenge Tweed Enterprises workshop and at head office.

"We've struggled for many years to make ends meet however recent reforms in the disability sector have exacerbated the financial drain on the organisation," Mr Jones said.

"We need to undertake considerable changes in all business areas in an effort to become more competitive and remain a viable business and service for people with a disability in the future.

"Raising the capital to implement the required changes is the next major hurdle for us," he said.

Mr Jones said that in order to meet new higher-service standards put in place for the protection of people with disabilities, his organisation had to employ more staff without further funding so the extra salaries had impacted "quite dramatically".



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