A READING therapy centre has accused the council of 'neglecting' mental health services in its Covid-19 financial support plan.

Mind Garden Therapy, based in London Street, is the town's largest psychological therapy centre, supporting the private practices of 44 self-employed therapists.

READ MORE: Police called TWICE to 'large gathering' disturbing neighbours

The service applied for Reading Borough Council's (RBC) offer in May to support small businesses suffering as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which came from the government's announcement to provide a discretionary fund to businesses previously outside the scope of the main business grant funds scheme.

Mind Garden Therapy, however, was told it does not fit under the qualifying categories for grants.

Directors and lead therapists Ann-Marie James and Angela Atack told The Chronicle that similar businesses in West Berkshire and Oxfordshire have been awarded "substantial support".

"The council has done this based on their choice to limit the categories for eligibility to four specific areas, resulting in our business not qualifying", they said.

"This information was not made transparent at the time of application and contradicts the information presented by RBC themselves in early May when additional funding was announced.

"A neighbouring businesses in the cosmetic industry has received in excess of £20,000 whilst our application has been deemed ineligible.

"We notice that dental practices and other private healthcare centres are also being denied essential financial support in the midst of an unprecedented health crisis."

READ MORE: Man in mobility scooter left with broken jaw and vision problems following 'frightening' robbery by three men

RBC initially said that the funding would be "aimed at small businesses with less than 50 employees and with ongoing fixed property-related costs who can demonstrate that they have seen a significant drop in their income due to coronavirus restriction measures."

The centre said that, since March, its monthly turnover has dropped by 75 per cent due to lockdown regulations and, as a result, the company has been forced to curtail their offering of reduced therapy costs to people who cannot afford standard rates.

They called the issue "a neglect of psychological servies in Berkshire", adding: "it's clearly absurd that a business like ours, providing essential mental health services in central Reading, is deemed less worthy of vital financial support than hospitality or retail."

RBC said it was well aware that supply would outweigh demand for the limited funds provided by central government.

An RBC spokesman said: "While each local authority determined their local schemes, MHCLG guidance was clear that councils should prioritise the available funding available on four small business types: Small business in shared offices that do not have their own rates assessment; regular marker traders who don’t have their own rates assessment; B&Bs which pay council tax and charities in receipt of charitable relief that would otherwise have received small business rates relief.

"Reading's demographic meant the council was only able to award grants to the four priority businesses outlined.

"This company did not fall into those categories and, additionally, it has a rateable value that exceeds the limit set of £15,000.

READ MORE: Greggs now DELIVERING to Reading doors

"Whilst the company holds another lease in a shared office, it would not qualify for small business rate relief as the combined rateable value of both properties exceeds the maximum for eligibility."

RBC added that clear information on eligibility was provided to all businesses applying during the two week window, which started on June 1, adding: "The council cannot comment on schemes in other areas, other than to say they would likely have a very different demographic of business types to Reading’s which may mean they could offer grants outside of the four business types specified."