She writes to Nette Carder(Bottom Picture) Executive Director of Operations & Social Care , Birmingham & Solhull Mental Health Trust , Trust Headquarters , Unit 1-B1. 50 Summerhill Road , Birmingham B1 3RD
"You will recall that you wrote to me on 5th June to explain about the process of developing existing day services, including those at Hawkesley Day Centre into a new Social Inclusion and Opportunity Service .
I have recently met with service users at Hawkesley Day Centre and it is obvious that there is not only anxiety about future proposals but concerns about the run down of valued services. As you may also be aware, I have received similar concerns with regard to other day centres including Albert Road Day Service (Perry Barr Constituency) and the Main Street Centre (Sparkbrook and Small Health Constituency)
With respect to Hawkesley, it would appear that the assurances given that services would not close until there were suitable alternatives in place has not been honoured. I was particularly concerned to learn that two members of staff have not been replaced and that the counsellor who helps people to ensure they are claiming their full entitlement to benefits only attends one day a week (compared with 5 days previously). This, and the emphasis on work with individuals has meant that at least one group has been disbanded. I was told that two people who attended a Monday morning group no longer attend the Centre and do not appear to be receiving any service . People complain that because groups were no longer functioning , they are being turned away from the Centre because there is inadequate staffing left on the site ..
Whilst I defended very strongly the concept of social inclusion and the need to break down the stigma associated with mental health problems, it was pointed out that this stigma will not be broken down overnight and there remains a need for what was described as "sanctuary" and a "stepping off point" from which people could be helped to "branch out" into the community . Instead people feel that services are being shut down at Hawkesley and they are being forced out into uncomfortable situations ..
Nearly everyone I spoke to felt a a sense of hopelessness at what was happening and mistrust towards the people that appeared to be making the decisions on their behalf . There is a perception that consultation is not consultation at all, merely a process of giving information. It is felt that the transformation that has been brought about in service users lives through their engagment with the services at Hawkesley Day Centre is undervalued by those in authority whereas, for service users, the Centre is "a godsend" and a place of comradeship and safety ..
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In relation to service-user led services , people expressed the view that these would not work on a long term basis unless there was ongoing support. I am sure that it is intended that such support should be provided but , if so , it has not been spelt out to service users .
I would like to make the following suggestions :
The two vacant posts should be filled , accepting that the job descriptions will require some flexibility .
Ways should be found to showcase the new opportunities that could be made available to service users. This could involve groups visits to see facilities in operation or the attendance at Hawkesley by service-users who have benefitted from the "social inclusion agenda" .
An audit is undertaken of the services that Day Centre users were accessing at the start of 2006, and a comparison made with the current pattern of enagement. The results should be published (with appropriate removal of information that could identify individuals) and assurances given that follow up audits will be periodically undertaken to inform development of services. This should also apply at Albert Road and Main street
The keeping of adequate records of consultation outcomes so that appropriate scrutiny can take place following service changes ...
I would welcome the opportunity of meeting with Peter Davidson and other relevant decision makers to discuss the way forward . It would also be helpful if the Centre Manager could attend and possible one or two representatives of service users .
Finally I am enclosing copies of written representations that were handed me during my visit . For your information I did emphasise that the mental health budget was growing and that financial considerations were not the driver of changes in service configuration. Co-incidentally, just after our meeting , I received the enclosed letter from the Primary Care Trust about funding the mental health services and I will be passing a copy of this on to service user representatives .
Seperately , I have been informed that there has been a 33% increase over 2 years in the spending by the local authority on mental health services . No doubt, however, there is still much unmet need and any comments the Trust has in this regard would be gratefully received!
Lynne Jones M.P.
Peter Davidson ..