Category: London

OPPOSITION is being directed at council proposals to axe a mental health day centre.

Users of the Redbridge Resource Centre, Ley Street, Ilford, say council chiefs will have “blood on their hands” if they go through with proposals to close it for good.

They are looking at yearly savings of £551,000 by axing the Monday to Friday service, which has 145 active users, as well as closing a housing complex for those with mental health needs.

Ian Levene, of Mount Pleasant, Ilford, has been using the day centre for 10 years.

He said: “It’s a place where people can meet friends and can get on with their lives without being indoors all the time.”

Mr Levene added: “We know cuts have to me made – they (council chiefs) should cap their salaries. If they’ve been throwing money around for years and years, don’t blame us.”

The centre houses an art and TV room, as well as facilities for massage and quiet time.

Polly Kourtellas, 47, has relied on the centre for five years.

Polly, of Fullwell Avenue, Barkingside, said: “It helps me to not be isolated indoors. The only place I eat is at the centre.

“I’m on medication and if I feel isolated it makes me self-harm. It’s helped me a hell of a lot.”

Council bosses say relocating service users to existing schemes in the borough will be a “considerable challenge”.

The proposals are part of £5.8million of savings being made by the council to offset government budget cuts.

Town Hall bosses are also proposing to close Abury House, Aldborough Road North, Newbury Park, which is a supported accommodation complex with nine purpose-built flats for people with mental health needs…..

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From The Socialist Newspaper, written by a Mental Health Worker. 18th August 2010.

Community mental health care bosses in Southwark, south London, aim to save £3.7 million in two years.

They have explicitly stated that they are moving away from providing sustained, long term community support by handing responsibility to patients, who may not be ready or able to manage their own care.

Community teams across Southwark currently support 2,800 patients but are now expected to rapidly discharge 500 to 800 clients. All agency posts are to be cut, which will result in workloads increasing.

Smaller teams of six workers are planned, made up of three ‘band six’ and three ‘band five’ workers. However, most of the existing nursing posts are in band six, whose experience and training are of paramount importance when supporting people with severe and enduring illness within their communities. This means almost half of the workers will be demoted and suffer pay cuts of between £5,000 and £10,000 a year, depending on length of service.

The demotions will lead to demoralisation amongst frontline, very experienced staff who are effectively being driven out, reducing the amount of experience, skill and training in the workforce.

Patient admission stays are also to be cut, meaning patients will be briefly, and possibly more frequently, locked up, drugged up and then discharged with very short term, patchy support. GPs will be expected to care for chronically disabled people and they will not have the skills, time or desire to fill the gaps in mental health service provision.

If patients are not adequately supported then both patients and communities will be left exposed to increased rates of violent incidents, self harm, suicide, severe neglect, substance abuse and homelessness.

Read article here.

ALMOST 20 projects for elderly or vulnerable people in the borough are set to miss out on funding.

From the East London and West Essex Guardian.

7th September 2010.

“Redbridge Council was hoping to receive a total of £5.8 million from the Government to help fund vital projects in the borough but the council is now likely to receive just under £3 million.

Tonight Redbridge Council’s cabinet is due to meet and one of the items up for discussion is the Local Public Service Agreement (LPSA).

Under the LPSA a host of projects were started in the borough last year and as they proved a success it meant the council became eligible to receive a substantial Government grant, in total £5.8 million.

The first payment, of £2.3 million, was made to the authority in March and the rest of the grant was due to be paid in March next year.

In total 19 projects are in need of funding but the grant has been scaled back by Government as it attempts to address the nation’s deficit.

One of the projects which is set to be hit by the Government decision is the Age Well initiative which provides exercise classes for the elderly, run by Age Concern.

Gary Heather, a senior manager with Age Concern in Redbridge, said the application for £50,000 was to help keep the Age Well initiative running at its current level.

Council officers have looked at what the authority can afford and it had been recommended the project receives £25,000 instead of £50,000.

Mr Heather said: “We assumed we were getting it and we had hoped for more initially.

“On paper the project doesn’t work without the funding, it’s future will depend on whether our board would want to carry on supporting it through our reserve funding, which in today’s climate there might be other calls for that money.”

Mr Heather said Age Well is run across the borough and provides health promotion advice and exercise classes for the elderly.

He said: “It’s very social and we have about 100 older people who benefit from classes which include tai chi, line dancing, walking, chair-based exercises and more.”

Mr Heather said £25,000 has been spent on the project since the start of the year so if another £25,000 is given by the council it will cover the next six months but classes would face an uncertain future after that.

Another service likely to be affected is Redbridge Concern for Mental Health‘s new programme Befriending Service for People with Dementia.

The initiative is at the centre of an application for £60,000 and it has been recommended that £30,000 is given.

The project, which has been running for about six months but it is in its infancy, aims to recruit and train volunteers who befried elderly residents in the borough who are alone and living with dementia……”

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A CHARITY giving respite care to families of disabled children is facing closure.

From Barking and Dagenham Post. 18th August 2010.

“Crossroads Care in Althorne Way, Dagenham, expressed its regret at the planned closure on September 9, but said it had been unable to withstand public sector funding cuts that larger organisations could have weathered.

The Barking and Dagenham charity is the first out of 100 Crossroads branches in the UK to be earmarked for closure.

Crossroads Care helps nearly 130 families with disabled children and around 170 adults including dementia sufferers.

The charity’s demise could lead to the loss of 50 jobs.

Charity bosses are negotiating with their main client, Barking and Dagenham Council, in a bid to continue giving breaks to carers.

Council chiefs pledged to do everything to ensure Crossroads services continued to be delivered, through individual social care payments giving carers Government cash.

St Mark’s Church vicar Rev Roger Gayler, the charity’s chairman, said: “It has become clear that we do not have the funds to continue to operate beyond September 9…..”

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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.