EVERY year up to 1,000 disabled people rely on the help and support they get from a small charity run from a living room in Southend.

Dial, the Disability Information Advice Line, supports up to 30 people with a range of disabilities every week.

However, the future is not bright. A lack of cash means it may have soon to close.

Earlier this year the team behind the charity were forced to leave their base at the Southend Association of Voluntary Services in Alexandra Street, Southend, because it could no longer afford the rent.

It was a heartbreaking decision for Ron Alexander, who runs Dial Southend, but one which the dire financial situation forced him into.

The service, which includes a telephone helpline and home visits, was able to continue but is now primarily based at Mr Alexander’s home in Martock Avenue, Westcliff.

A lifeline was handed to the charity by the team at St Marks Community Centre, Princes Street, Southend, who were able to offer Dial a home two days a week to hold crucial drop-in sessions.

It gives users the chance to get face to face advice, support and information and enables volunteers at the charity to see who they are helping and feel like they are making a difference in the community.

Similar sessions take place at Southend Central Library, but Dial does not know if theywill be able to continue the arrangement when it relocates to the new £27million Forum building in Elmer Approach at the end of September.

Mr Alexander, 60, said: “We don’t get any funding. It’s only because of the generosity of users and people who give donations that we can keep going.

“Dial is run by disabled people for disabled people and we want to keep it that way as we understand the issues and can help people face what is thrown at them.

“I give whatever I can to the charity but I can’t bankroll it forever and soon my own money is going to run out.”

Mr Alexander gave up his £22,000 a year role as chief officer at the charity to run it out of love, enthusiasm and dedication to help the 32,000 strong disabled community in Southend.

He is funding much of the £30,000 a year running costs himself, with a helping hand from fundraising events, businesses, residents and service users.

When Dial reached crisis point last year Southend-based medical equipment firm KeyMed pledged £5,000 to the charity.

It has enough money to keep going until next April, but Mr Alexander is fearful for the future.

He said: “It’s fantastic for us people have stepped in to help and make it possible for us to carry on for the time being “We’re never going to get back to where we were but I would like to find somewhere we can have our own full-time base. It’s really not ideal for a charity like this to be run out of my living room.

“All disability charities seem to really be suffering at the moment at a time when people need us more than ever.

“I think we’re often forgotten about or people don’t understand just how crucial our work can be.”

Dial has been inundated with calls for help in the wake of the introduction of the controversial bedroom tax, which sees council tenants charged extra if they are deemed to have a spare room and a home which is too big for them.

The charity helps disabled residents understand what they are entitled to and offers support to people when they fill out forms to apply for benefits, such as disability living allowance.

Mr Alexander suffers with severe arthritis stemming from an accident during his time in the Royal Navy.

He was inspired to campaign for disability rights after his own condition left him wheelchairbound 23 years ago and he experienced first hand the prejudice and difficulties disabled people face on a daily basis.

He was forced to give up the career he loved as a landscape gardener and retrained in computer engineering.

Confident, optimistic and prepared he went for his first job interview in the field only to be told he wasn’t suitable for the position he was qualified forbecause he was in a wheelchair.

“Things were different back then and, believe it or not, companies could get away with saying that kind of thing.

“I’m glad things have improved now, but we’ve still got a way to go. I decided I didn’t want anyone else to go through what I did or feel how I felt that day.

“I might have had very little help myself, but I’m giving back what I can to people who need it.”

Mr Alexander also suffers from dyslexia, diabetes and survived cancer last year.

He added: “I’ve not been very well lately so I should have taken a step back from Dial, but I find it hard.

“I never want to see it close and I know if it did a lot of people would be left without help they really need. Any help we can get is needed.”

To donate to Dial Southend or offer your time as a volunteer call Preeti Aggarwal on 07516 752931.