A CHARITY that has provided advice and support for families across Wiltshire for the last 20 years has closed due to a lack of funding.

Parenting charity ‘ask’ has stopped providing services and will formally shut down on June 30 due to a reduction in funding and its Family Information Service contract being taken over by Wiltshire Council.

Ask was founded in 1994 after research identified the need for a dedicated family information service.

It aimed to provide a single point of contact for parents and carers looking for support and advice on a range of issues from childcare and play groups to support classes and holiday activities.

Chief executive Linda Cantillon- Guyatt, who has been with ask since it was started, said: “After several years of reduced funding and now with the loss of the Family Information Service contract, we feel we have no alternative but to close the organisation.

“It has been a painful decision. I have been involved with the organisation for 20 years and together with a dedicated team I was determined to fight to the very end, but there comes a time when it is no longer viable to struggle on, and that point has now been reached.

“The phone lines are now silent and where once there were skilled staff answering calls and providing help there are now just empty desks.

“It is very sad.”

Ask, which was based in Steeple Ashton but provided services across Wiltshire including for many parents in Salisbury, ran a popular website, phone line and information service.

Lady Ruth Hawley, a patron at ask, said: “Parents and carers often rang to discuss worries about their child’s behaviour, bullying or perhaps sleeping problems. In such cases ask was able to refer them to information on their own website or to a parenting class. While parenting specialists and outreach workers were able to visit people in their homes or children’s centres to provide longer term help.

“Professionals working with families such as health visitors, teachers and social workers also used ask to find out what was available close to the families they were working with.”

Liz Garrett, chairman of ask, added: “It is sad that an organisation which has provided vital services to help parents and carers has become a casualty of changes to the way that voluntary organisations are funded and contracts awarded.

“The trustees of ask hope that parents and carers in Wiltshire will continue to get the information, support and advice they need through the arrangements that are now in place for that.

“We believe that the work of ask over the past two decades will be recognised as an important and valuable community service which is a great loss to the county.”

The Family Information Service is being run by Wiltshire Council and can be contacted on 0300 0030 4573 or wiltshirefis.org.uk.