SHUTTING a support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered young people could lead to an increase in mental health problems and even suicide, a youth worker has warned.

Space Youth Project started in Bournemouth nearly eight years ago and has since expanded across Dorset.

But now its funding has been drastically cut and it is facing closure in the town, which has the fourth highest gay population in England.

Space has been given some money by Dorset County Council and Poole, but Bournemouth council has given it £1,800 for four months, not even enough to cover staffing costs.

The group has also been given notice to quit Over the Rainbow’s premises in St Michael’s Road by current leaseholder Dorset County Hospital.

Project manager Helen Walsh, who is facing being made redundant in June, said: “There will be an awful lot of very unhappy, unsupported, vulnerable young people out there at risk of anything up to suicide.

“At least five per cent of the population is lesbian, bisexual, gay or trans and there isn’t any other special service for them.

“They have a high rate of self-harm, mental and sexual health issues.

“Homophobia is still out there, unfortunately. The young people we work with are fearful of going into other youth services.

“They feel they can’t be themselves and have to hide their sexuality.”

At the moment, Space has 70 members in Bournemouth. Its last meeting on March 25 was attended by 38 people, most of them teenagers.

Apart from weekly sessions, the project offers counselling, internet and telephone support for young people, and support for parents and other professionals.

Geraint Griffiths, Bournemouth council’s head of youth service, said: “We recognise the importance and value of this service for young people in Bournemouth.

“We have been liaising with the group and have confirmed that we can continue to offer the same level of funding for at least the next four months while an internal restructure is under review.

“We have also offered the group alternative accommodation in order to continue their service.”

A spokesperson for Dorset County Hospital said: “Space Youth Project has been sub-letting the space from us.

Negotiations are taking place with NHS Bournemouth and Poole as to whether to take over the lease but this has not yet been confirmed.”