Category: Lancashire

Granada News Report, on cuts in the NorthWest, featuring @BendyGirl talking about her fears about DLA cuts.


From the Lancashire Evening Post. 6th September 2010.

Mental health chiefs were today accused of trying to close a threatened mental health unit before their deadline by getting rid of beds at the earliest opportunity.

“Bosses at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust announced they will be closing the Avondale Unit based at the Royal Preston Hospital by December 31 this year – a decision which sparked outrage and has led to people campaigning to save the facility from the axe.

Now it has emerged that 11 beds have already been taken away from the unit which provides adult inpatient care for people with serious mental health issues such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression.

Current figures show that of the 36 beds across the male Sycamore Ward and the female Willow Ward, 12 beds are in Willow and 13 in Sycamore.

Campaigners today accused mental health bosses of trying to discharge patients at the earliest opportunity in an attempt to close the unit as soon as they can.

Nadia Southwood, of Fulwood in Preston, who is leading the Save Avondale For Everyone (SAFE) campaign, said she believed NHS chiefs felt threatened by the strong reaction of the public against their decision to close the unit and were trying to close it quicker than planned before the protest gathered even more momentum.

Nadia, 40, whose boyfriend Steve Weyer was treated at Avondale after suffering a breakdown, said: “I think, because the campaign to save Avondale is going so well, the bosses who made this terrible decision feel threatened by the public strength of feeling and want to get the closure wrapped up as quickly as possible.

“Once beds are closed, it will be much more difficult to re-open them and I think the Avondale Unit will be closed a lot sooner than its proposed closure date of the end of December.

“From what we have heard, I suspect the unit will be closed to inpatients by mid-October.

“I think, because of the public pressure, they are now trying to hurry the closure along.”

One source close to the unit, who did not wish to be named, said: “They are closing beds at the earliest opportunity and Preston patients are being admitted out of the area and the big wigs won’t let them be brought back to their own area.

“We think they are trying to fiddle the figures to justify the closure by sending patients to units elsewhere in Lancashire, even though it is not near their own home.

“There are a lot of rumours spreading that the unit will be closed by the end of October and I think this is probably true.

“Staff have all been sent e-mails by bosses telling them not to talk to the press or anyone else about issues relating to Avondale.

“I think they are getting a bit worried about the reaction the closure is getting and how much people are protesting against it.”

Shirley Saunders, director of strategic development and deputy chief executive at Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We absolutely guarantee that there are no plans to close the Avondale overnight.

“The commitment to which we are adhering is a phased closure over a period of time as the need reduces naturally as a result of the safe and effective services we have developed in the community and in which we have invested heavily.”

A SAFE public meeting has been organised for Tuesday September 28 at Preston Town Hall at 6pm so people can express their opinions and concerns about the proposed closure.”

Click here for article.

Other relevant articles.

Unanimous Plea to Save Avondale

The media hasn’t annoyed me too much over the last few days. No preposterous stories about disabled people claiming benefits whilst simultaneously being world famous lion tamers, using taxpayers’ cash for round the world solo hot air balloon trips, or employing a harem of illegal immigrants using Independent Living Funds.

So I thought I’d have a google to see if anything popped up. Nothing particularly exciting did, but there seems to be an increasing amount of stories about cuts to services for the disabled and mentally ill. Bearing in mind that many of these services provide a means of getting back into the work place or a step to voluntary work, these cuts can often appear to save money but in the long run are actually costing the country cash. So here’s a rundown of a few.

A garden in Southend, that provides horticultural therapy for upto 70 people with mental health problems, is facing cash shortfalls after the local council, PCT and lottery funding has either been reduced or ceased.

The Avondale mental health unit at the Royal Hospital in Preston (popn. 132,000) is threatened with closure. This would mean a trip to Chorley or Blackpool for service users, and would threaten a service opened only this year for 16-17 year olds, as well as causing concern that the (60+ a year) homeless people who use the service will have to return to sleeping rough.

A recycling scheme that provides training for people with learning disabilities in Leicestershire is under threat, with the County Council likely to withdraw funding. It has given people with Autism, Asperger’s Sydrome and Down’s Syndrome employment since 2006 as well as improving the quality of their lives and opportunities for further employment.

Croydon Council is scrapping the Community Business and Work scheme and the Community Enterprise Support Service . These two voluntary sector schemes tried to find jobs for people with disabilities, the CBW alone had helped to find employment for 100 people  since September 2009. They have also cut funding to Treetop’s Childrens Centre, which provides support and respite to families with children who have severe disabilities including autism and cerebral palsy.

Three Day Centres for people with mental health problems in Nottinghamshire are earmarked for closure. The County Council is following Government advice to assign people with ‘personal budgets’ to allow them to choose their own services, instead of funding the day centres. The fact that many people would choose to use their personal budget to attend the closed day centres does not seem to have occured to them

Leeds MIND is losing all funding from the NHS, which forms a quarter of its total revenue. This is going to lead to the closure of two of its projects, and the loss of 15 jobs.

The Enfield Clubhouse is facing a double threat. A place for people with severe and enduring mental health difficulties to socialise and engage in employment related activities, it is currently challenging a planning decision as well as facing funding cuts. Earlier this year, following demonstrations and a petition by local residents, it lost its planning permission to continue to use the premises as a non-residential dwelling. It had seemed likely that permission would be granted, until the neighbours’ demonstration, which seemed to be targeting the fact it is a service for people with mental illness. Placards bore slogans such as ‘We are not safe’ and ‘How many more’. Its worth noting that this demonstration took place on 24th June, less than 3 weeks after the Cumbrian shootings by Derrick Bird. There have been no incidents involving clubhouse members that would warrant such concerns.In addition to this threat, the local council has informed local voluntary sector organisations about their intention to withdraw all funding to mental health related employment initiatives from April 2011. This is a double blow to the clubhouse, and its future now hangs in the balance.

These are just a few of the many cuts to services for people with disabilities and mental health problems that have so far been announced. It seems likely that there will be many more popping up over the next few months, as the Government reduces funding to local councils.

Obviously cuts need to be made. However, it seems shortsighted that many of the organisations earmarked for closure are providing training and employment related functions. Closing these at a time when competition for every job is so fierce seems to be placing disabled people even further out of reach of employment. At the same time the Government is pushing people harder to find work, through cuts to DLA and Housing Benefit, and moving people from Incapacity Benefit onto Jobseekers’ Allowance and the work related group of ESA. These are often people who have been out of work for many years, and desperately need to increase their confidence and  skills if they are to stand a chance. The DWP is not providing this support, and these cuts mean that, for many, the voluntary sector will no longer provide it either.

In addition, these organisations provide an essential lifeline for socially isolated, vulnerable people. They can be quite literally lifesaving. Leaving funding concerns aside, our society cannot abandon the people who are least able to fight for their services.

Additional Links

Keep Middle Street Centre Open. Nottingham.

Gardening Project Hit with Cuts. Southend.