Yesterday, the United Service Users Committee, USUC, and the Manchester User Network, MUN, demonstrated as on group in Manchester's Piccadilly Gardens.
They stood there for over three hours, speaking to hundreds of people, asking for their support and letting shoppers know their deep concerns and worries over Salford City Council and Greater Manchester West Mental Health Trust's decision to take all community mental health support staff from drop ins and groups (see background article here).
The protest, which united the two groups from Manchester and Salford, finished with a noisy march down a packed Market Street, with banners flying high stating that the Salford Mayor had broken his promise not to cut services to the city's vulnerable people. They were clapped by many shoppers as they marched.
I spoke to one user from Salford who stated that the group will not bow to pressure from Salford Council…
"We are only carers and users of mental health services but that does not mean we will suffer enduring mental ill health" they said " Some people `up there' seem to think that we can't think for ourselves due to our illnesses, and need leading by the nose. But we are intelligent Salford residents and are not as gullible as they think.
"Maybe we once were, but to save our support we organised and joined other vulnerable groups, and our membership and support is growing by the day" they added "Service users are joining unions and, as members, have good access to legal advice, if it come to that, as Manchester users have. Salford United Service User Committee will not be afraid to go down that road also if needed."
Many service users will be taking part in the Lobby of the Labour Group of councillors tomorrow, Monday 15th October 5pm, outside the Civic Centre in Swinton (see here for details) and going on the Salford coach to London next Saturday, October 20th to March For A Future That Works (see here for details)
Words and photos by Phil Hamer
See also Phil Hamer's YouTube video of the protest - click here