Salford Council and the NHS produced a weighty Mental Wellbeing Strategy for Salford last year, which talked about the Importance of Mental Wellbeing as `fundamental to a person's quality of life' and how `strong social networks, social support and social inclusion play a significant role both in preventing mental health problems and improving outcomes and increasing recovery'.
It's these very support networks that are at risk as Salford Council wants to axe three community care worker posts that currently facilitate group activities and drop-ins.
With mental health problems within the community set to increase due to Government cuts, recession, unemployment etc (see here), Salford Council, admirably, wants its care workers to reach more people. The care workers themselves agreed to reach 300 new service users a year but this was rejected by Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Trust as "not viable" because it did not "realise significant savings in the region of approximately £80,000".
Instead, the Council proposed that only 246 new service users would be reached and…"In order to deliver to the number of new service users in the proposed option, CCWs [Community Care Workers] will not be able to continue providing group work and staffing of the Ramsgate House and Cromwell House Drop-In".
It proposed to axe three of these workers which, as a result, "may impact on the ability to provide groups activities and drop-ins". Indeed, the Council is exploring `user-led groups', ie do-it-yourself.
With typical tact, Salford Council was also proposing to consult with service users after the staff consultation ie present it as a fait accompli.
"We were told that workers will be doing only doing home visits so they will be taken away from doing the drop-ins and the groups too, so it will be up to the patients to keep them running" a service user told the Salford Star "But we can't run them ourselves. It is a lot of pressure and responsibility and I for one, am happy with things just the way they are right now.
"They already closed the drop-in at the centre two days each week and we weren't consulted about that at all, it just happened" the service user added "But when we ask if the drop-ins are closing, they never ever answer. It is just like what happened with Duchy House all over again."
The whole process has now got both service users and Salford City UNISON trade union really, really annoyed. Steven North, Branch Secretary of Salford City UNISON and Phil Hamer, Chair of the Salford Service User Network wrote to Mayor Ian Stewart to sort out the reduction of services for "some of the most vulnerable people in Salford".
Steve North told the Salford Star… "Management are proposing a loss of three posts in Community Mental Health and accept that the loss of these posts will mean either a reduction or a removal of staffing support for groups and drop-ins for mental health service users. However there has been no consultation with service users, their carers or the wider public about this.
"Service users are angry and rightly so" he explained "UNISON represents the staff involved, but we feel that service users should be a given a chance to express their views before staff are even spoken to. These are vulnerable people, but they can and do speak up for themselves and they value their services dearly.
"Along with Service User Representative Phil Hamer, I have written to Ian Stewart to ask him to halt any consultation with staff until service users and carers have been properly consulted and he has responded to me to say that he will be looking into this further" he added "I have informed him that we have already got a meeting for staff and service users booked in and we will be fighting this together. The Day Centres Campaign showed the passion and conviction of Salfordians when services for the most vulnerable are under threat. The Council and Greater Manchester West Mental Health Trust need to remember that."
Let's hope Mayor Ian Stewart can sort this plan to reduce services for the most vulnerable. In the £multi-million scheme of things finding £80,000 shouldn't be that difficult. And, if they can't find the funding, it might look a tad embarrassing for Mr Stewart, whose Mayoral office is currently advertising for both a PR person and a Person Assistant at a cost of almost £60,000 a year…
* The Salford Star also understands that, from June, Cromwell House is withdrawing the Citizens Advice Bureau service which is currently available all day on a Friday. This is a specialised service specifically for people with mental health problems and, again, we hear, there was no consultation with its users.
See previous Salford Star feature on Salford Council Mental Health Service cuts - click here