A service offering free mental health and wellbeing courses across Devon is set to close due to a lack of funding.

The Devon Recovery Learning Community (DRLC) offers a programme of free courses and drop-in sessions to support people struggling with mental health and wellbeing issues. However, the service, which has been provided by Devon Partnership NHS Trust since 2013, is being wound up in a bid to save money.

‘In many other parts of the country, opportunities like these are not hosted or provided by secondary mental health organisations like ours, but they sit with the voluntary sector and are part of a wider offer of help and support to local communities. This is the direction of travel we are supporting,’ a Devon Partnership NHS Trust spokesperson said. ‘In due course this will, sadly, mean the end of the DRLC offer,’ he added.

‘We need to move to a position where recovery learning opportunities are delivered through a more financially sustainable model. For many years we have funded DRLC far in excess of its budget.  Given the current financial challenges faced by our organisation, and the whole of the NHS in Devon, we are no longer in a position to continue with this level of over-funding,’ the Trust spokesperson added.

Last year the DRLC ran 302 learning recovery courses for more than 3000 students. These ranged from wellbeing with horses in Newton Abbot and sea swimming in Teignmouth to arts and crafts, walking and music therapy.

However, DRLC peer tutor Fleur Barr is angered by the cuts. ‘I don’t want our courses to be another budget cut. Sadly, it’s hard to prove the positive impact our courses have had on the lives of our students and the monetary savings we have already made for the NHS because our courses have kept students in a safe place or kept them out of hospital.’

Devon Partnership NHS Trust says it recognises the value of the DRLC offer. ‘We know how highly people have valued the work of DRLC over the years and we would like to express our gratitude to the team at DRLC and its course tutors for everything they have done to support the mental health and wellbeing needs of local people.’

‘We remain deeply committed to recovery learning and will continue to invest in it when the new arrangements are in place,’ a Trust spokesperson adds.

Devon Partnership NHS Trust now plans to gather feedback from people currently using DRLC so it can learn more about what people value most. ‘It is very important to remember that, alongside the courses and activities that are provided by DRLC, there is a wide range of other recovery learning opportunities across Devon, provided by a number of organisations,’ the Partnership spokesperson points out.

Teignbridge has one of the highest suicide rates in Devon with an average 15.3 deaths per 100,000 people compared with a rate of 12.5 per 100,000 for Devon as a whole.