A £1,000 Covid-19 business recovery grant awarded by Open North Foundation, will help take the strain off sports therapist, Stuart Houston, owner of Chester-Le-Street based, Therapy4U.

Stuart, 58, who specialises in tendinopathy, joint and muscles conditions, such as compartment syndrome, is currently only allowed to open for emergency appointments and will use the grant to purchase a laser machine.

Established six years ago, Therapy4U had attracted a strong customer base prior to Covid-19. Forced to close during national lockdowns, except for emergency appointments, the business has suffered significantly.

A private sector-led, not-for profit company, established in summer 2020, Open North Foundation assists small firms in the North East looking to recover from the pandemic through grants that are donated by companies and individuals in the region, plus in-kind support such as marketing, HR and finance. Directors, ambassadors and supporters of the Foundation provide their time pro bono.

Stuart, said: “The past year has had a devastating impact on the business, as I have been forced to close on three occasions now. Even when lockdowns have been eased and I have been allowed to resume work fully, the business has significantly under-performed as the majority of my clients are over 55 and shielding.

“I anticipate business will come back when the current lockdown is eased and the very quick rollout of vaccines means most of my clients will, hopefully, receive their first vaccine by the end of spring. I have had countless messages from both existing and potential clients, who are desperate to come and see me to work on reducing pain and increasing mobility, when they feel it is safe for them to do so.

“The laser machine, which the grant has gone towards purchasing, will treat numerous ailments, from plantar fasciitis to osteo arthritis. Whilst there is nothing I can do except wait to be given the green light by the government, I will be ready to treat clients with state of the art technology when my door finally opens.”

Richard Swart, chair, Open North Foundation, said: “Open North Foundation exists to support North East businesses that have a strong future post-COVID. Therapy4U contributes to health in our community and has met the criteria we require to award a grant and the future looks bright.

“We are starting to turn a corner in the fight against Covid-19 but there is still a lot of uncertainty ahead for the economy. The foundation will be here to help as many local businesses as possible for as long as it is needed.”

“We would like to encourage businesses and organisations that are in a position to pledge financial and or service support, to join us in our fight to secure the future of North East businesses. Full details of what we do and requirements to qualify for support are on our website www.opennorthfoundation.co.uk.”