To huge cheers, Vee Ball, chair of the newly formed and well titled United Service Users Committee – USUC – told the audience at last night's public meeting… "I'm just a housewife from Salford. Yet last Saturday I got to have a cup of tea with Ed Miliband. If I can do that, you lot can move mountains!"
In the recent past, Vee was a Health and Safety officer but had to give up her job to become a full time carer for her husband who has a mental health disorder. The drop-in groups run at Cromwell House were a lifeline for both her husband and herself. And then came the cuts, inspiring her to join other carers and service users to speak out against the injustice of hitting the most vulnerable people in society.
A couple of weeks ago it was Salford Mayor, Ian Stewart, who got his ears gently bashed by Vee and co (see here), and this week it was Ed Miliband's turn (see here). A housewife and some brave, brave service users who have gone public with their concerns about mental health service cuts are now beginning to seriously ruffle some very serious political feathers. Because this is a Labour Council doing the cutting.
Well over a hundred people attended last night's meeting, including Councillor Wheeler, from Eccles showing his support for the campaign. He heard how the Salford group, USUC, had joined up with the Manchester Users Network, and its representative, UNISON's Caroline Ridgeway, told how Manchester had suffered even more draconian cuts than Salford – closure of a mental health ward at MRI, a 20% cut to the service and crisis teams seeing 10-20% more people.
Meanwhile, speakers from the floor explained the devastating affect the cuts would have on their lives as service users and carers.
The meeting voted to continue the pressure on Salford Council by lobbying the Labour Group meetings and, for tomorrow night (Wednesday), lobbying the surgery of Councillor Peter Connor, Salford's Assistant Mayor with responsibility for Adult Social Services.
People who attended the meeting came away well impressed…
"The mix of people who came - users, carers, staff, union, as well as the joint working with the campaign in Manchester, showed what a strong campaign it is and what's already been done in such a short space of time" said one member of the public "People's contributions were also incredibly powerful and moving…"
"Service users at this time have enough to contend with, with ATOS, medicals and the threat of having their benefits stopped" added a service user "This savage cut to the City of Salford's most vulnerable is, to me as a member of the Labour Party, staggering. Councillor Connor says no groups have been stopped but he should ask the Cromwell House service users about that and check out what happened to the women's group and the woodwork group."
The campaign against cuts to mental health services just keeps growing and growing.
Lobby Councillor Connor's surgery - Wednesday 3rd September 6pm St Aidan Church, Littleton Road, Lower Kersal
Petition The Council! Petitions available from Salford City UNISON office 443 Chorley Road, Swinton or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll send you a jpg petition to print out.
See previous Salford Star articles on the mental health cuts – click here