CARING counsellors are offering free support to care home staff, residents and their families across Lancashire to tackle mental health issues arising out of COVID-19.

Blue Key Alliance Community Interest Company has three trained therapists Paul Bridge, whose practice is in Bacup, Emma Marshall, from Bacup, and Naeem Akhtar, from Rochdale, along with volunteer qualified counsellor Sue Jones.

The National Lottery Community Fund has granted nearly £10,000 to support the confidential free online and telephone support service project for care homes across the whole of Lancashire.

Paul said: "We set up the not-for-profit community interest company Blue Key Alliance in January because we were trying to think of how we could collectively help others.

"Then along came COVID and we realised that there was a real need in care homes because they were isolated and therefore care home staff, the residents and the families of residents were at risk of mental health problems.

"Then the brilliant Emma wrote a lottery bid for us and it was successful."

Emma has worked for Manchester Sensory Support Service for 10 years supporting children with visual impairment and some had additional needs.

It was while one child was losing her sight, Emma realised there was a need for counselling because there was nothing the eye hospital offered.

She said: "That made me decide to retrain as a counsellor."

Since qualifying in 2019, Emma has volunteered with Mind and as part of her course she volunteered with school counselling service Place 2 Be.

Paul and Peps, as Naeem is known, trained together in 2002 and they delivered a successful back to work employment course in Bolton for young people aged 16-19.

Paul said: "We are offering telephone counselling or Zoom online sessions and people can have up to six 50-minute sessions for free after which time we can signpost clients to other services or support group if necessary.

"The funding covers the project for six months so we will be looking to secure additional grants to make sure that we can continue to offer our services and hopefully extend the areas where we can work.

"We are very grateful to the National Lottery for supporting us and of course thank you to the people who play the lottery as that enables grants to be offered."

Already the service is being used by care home staff and a resident's family and anyone from the project client group can contact Emma on 07762 291 883 or email or visit