Youth counselling service returns

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EVELYN.THORN@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

Clutha District children’s counselling service Chatbus is back to stay for now — under a new name — thanks to the help of local donations and behind the scenes preparation.

The counselling service, now known as Hearing You, had previously struggled to sustain funding for the service.

However, supporters wished to bring it back online, after statistics showed Chatbus was well›subscribed by its young users.

Chatbus saw from six to eight children aday throughout the district in 2021.

With the help of funding from Catholic Social Services, preparation from Big River Kahui Ako and donations from local business owners, Hearing You will now be available to 11 schools around the Clutha District for at least another year.

New counsellor Susan Evans, originally based in Dunedin, has been employed as the face of Hearing You, and will begin her role through individual referrals along with disclosures in order to tackle any issues one› on›one with clients.

She said the counselling service was in high demand throughout schools in the Clutha District.

The service ensured children and teenagers around the area had the option of advice and help from a professional source in order to keep them safe in the knowledge they could confide in someone if they were struggling with anything.

Mrs Evans said she planned to travel from Dunedin to Balclutha daily at this stage.

She would work 8.30am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday, to see young people during school hours.

Val Ward, who is a co›lead for Big River Kahui Ako and Hearing You, said the group aimed to sustain the counselling service beyond one year.

‘‘We know how important Chatbus was in 2021 to kids around the Clutha area.’’

Along with about $100,000 of funding towards a counsellor for Hearing You, local business leaders also played roles in helping bring the service back for another year.

Cleverleys owner Simon Cleverley donated avehicle for Mrs Evans’ use, and running costs will be covered by Balclutha Motors owner Jared McPhee and Mike Hurring Logging & Contracting owner Mike Hurring.

Balclutha Police detective Kate Bartlett has also pitched in alongside Val Ward behind the scenes to ensure the service goes ahead to provide Clutha pupils with Hearing You for the year.

‘‘We are also seeking and pursuing grants from service clubs and organisations for Hearing You, so we can keep it running,’’ Mrs Ward said.