A CORONAVIRUS fund grant will allow a counselling charity to continue supporting the families of drink, drug and gambling addicts after seeing a rise in cases during the lockdown.

Families Out Loud, which works in Chippenham and Trowbridge, has been awarded £5,000 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund. The fund has raised £1.1 million and distributed more than £850,000 to 200 groups across the county to help them overcome the challenges of the pandemic.

The counselling group, formed in 2018 to help families come to terms with living with people suffering drink, drug or gambling addiction, has seen 22 new referrals since April and completed 123 one-to-one and 52 group sessions since it switched its operation online after the lockdown.

Chairman of trustees Susy Lenihan said: “We are so grateful for this grant. We have lost a number of fundraising opportunities over the past six months and this will enable us to have the confidence that we can support our counsellor and cover most of her fees for a year. It will mean we can use whatever other money we raise to run our network and our publicity.

“The relief to find out we had received the grant was enormous, the cheer that went up was actually quite wonderful.”

She said the pressures of the lockdown have taken its toll on families. “We’ve had a large number of referrals over this period of time because a lot of people have found it really difficult as lockdown has brought its own strains, especially with any sort of addiction. So many people have lapsed, and it has been extremely difficult for them and their families,” she said.

“Because the addicts themselves have found it difficult the people who support and care for them are finding it even more so. Anyone who hasn’t lived with an addict can’t really understand that level of hopelessness and frustration that families suffer and that’s coming out a lot in the people who have contacted us.”

The group’s counsellors work with as many of an addict’s family that need help and sessions can continue for as long as they want. Families are referred by groups such as Turning Point or through its website or Facebook page.

“People generally will come to us when they are desperate, they really do need help and just want someone to talk to because a large part of what we’ve found is that people need a safe environment in which to talk,” said Mrs Lenihan.

She said helping family members understand their own feelings and anxieties is a major part of counsellors’ role. “The guilt is a large part of it because people feel if they love someone enough, they ought to have been able to stop their addiction and that is the biggest fallacy of all,” she added.

“It is amazing how many addicts will say to their nearest and dearest ‘it’s all your fault, you caused this, you could have supported it better’. There is so much manipulation and blackmail in addiction. Our job is to help people actually recognise this and give them the tools to cope with it and take that feeling of hopelessness away.”

Families pay a donation to access the counselling but if they can’t afford to pay, no one is turned away. As well as the one-one-one sessions there are also support groups in Chippenham and Trowbridge.

“The groups are composed of people who have had counselling and if they find that support within a group that they can trust and they will be able to open up and learn from other peoples’ experiences,” said the group’s secretary Debra Hawley.

“That’s where the healing takes place really, it’s not just a quick fix and a magic bullet. It can take years before people work through their problem.”

Go to familiesoutloud.org or on Facebook.

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.