Just over a year and a half ago, Salford Council announced cuts to Mental Health Services in the city, including a reduction in staff and less support for group sessions and drop-ins for people with mental health problems…
"Service users reacted with horror, and demanded to know how the sessions would be staffed" recalls the first chapter of Cuts Can Be Beaten!, a 16 page pamphlet produced by Salford Against The Cuts.
The answer from Salford Council, it adds, was that sessions would be staffed `by volunteers and service users themselves'… "So, over the spring and summer, service users and carers got organised"…
There follows the full story of how those service users formed USUC (United Service Users' Committee… "When they realised how the acronym would be pronounced (try it!) they decided to keep the name as a message to Mayor Ian Stewart…"
From a first confrontation with Stewart at Salford's `Democracy Day', through to meeting with Ed Miliband, demonstrating all over the country, and occupying and disrupting Salford Council meetings, USUC put into practice every device in the protester's manual.
But behind the hard core campaign, which linked in with Salford Against The Cuts (SAC), Salford City UNISON and many other organisations, were real stories of suffering by some of the most vulnerable people in Salford, including the sad suicide of a service user…
"In February there was grisly confirmation of USUC's predictions when a service user committed suicide by jumping from a motorway bridge" the pamphlet recalls "The day before he had been inquiring when sessions would be re-starting and was told there was no scheduled re-start.
"It was in the charged atmosphere after the suicide that Salford Council were due to agree their budget for 2013/14" it adds "USUC and SAC jointly agreed that there needed to be a further dramatic protest…"
While Salford City councillors and Mayor Ian Stewart tend to write off protests against themselves as being done by `extremists', `rent-a crowd' and `liars', this pamphlet needs to be read to counter such accusations. These are real people's struggles, with real human struggles firing those protests.
The pamphlet is written by two participants in the campaign – Stephen Cullen, Vice Chair of USUC, and Paul Gerrard, Chair of Salford Against The Cuts, with an introduction by Kevin Corran, Secretary of Salford Against The Cuts and a UNISON activist in the community health team. Salford Star donated the photos.
Cuts Can Be Beaten!
How mental health service users took on Salford Council…and won!
The pamphlet is out now and costs £1 (or £2 solidarity price) and is available from the Salford City UNISON office (434 Chorley Road, Swinton) or from Paul Gerrard (phone 07999 951869 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and Paul will post or deliver a copy for the solidarity price).