Saturday, May 12, 2007

Frank About Birmingham And Solihull Mental Health Art Strategy

Congratulations to Frank Barton Birmingham depression sufferer for being able to spread the message of how to do classical type arts in oils and similar mediums. He's a damn good artist known to UserWatch and the eye-eye-gang in Birmingham .

The Birmingham And Solhull Mental Health Trust have promoted Frank on their website HERE.

You are lucky there Frank others have tried for fair promo on the Trusts website and we know they promoted other Art Trust "recognised"organisations .

As usual though, the Trust have their own "business" promotion motive lying just underneath. Its one of those facts of NHS services that they will cherry pick Users to sell the public that they are doing some good and using our money well . That's life.

But there is unease in the Service User Community i.e. those medium and Service User long-termers who feel the services in Birmingham seek to create corrals of Users which are increasingly amoebically digested by the services themselves . The services do love their creeping pseudo-podiums to use a biology metaphor ....

Is there any alternative ? UserWatch thinks there is . There a balance of power problem with the State being in so much control and even in the Mental Health Arts in Birmingham the evidence is of a slowly growing MH arts bureaucracy.

Better if the State created local development grants for small groups of Mental Health Users with an extra grants for an Independent empowerer which are not too embedded within the health bureacracies . Userwatch knows there is practice to support this through the use of group-joined-up Direct Payments. We have the information and strangely enough it surfaces within CSIP the NIMHE quangle-dangler - or "quangling" to experts by experience .

The Art mentor or empowerer could do a few hours a week of helping groups to constituionalise and become admin-fit to run themselves ..

UserWatch sees no problem also in better positive use of Day Centres where small peppercorn rents could be paid for leased-use of a NHS room in which staff agenda's do not have a overpowering place.

Its very easy to enshrine a paper agreement - its done all time when groups rent space from Community Centres..Couple that with chosen independent mentors and voila ! You have an empowering equation ..

The key element here is responsible and empowered patient ownership of space . In Birmingham the supply of that space within the Trust is woven within too many State and Trust agenda's . The State idea is "recovery" and the reality is many Users need a mix of real empowerment and less loud State voices . The mix of State pushed policies coming over as raw benefitless-recovery-ambition and the reality of User-capacity to recove, is still set to show up big contradictions and the pain will paid for in time by the Service Users . We are not theorising at UserWatch, we know of cases where the pain has really hacked in from the State .

UserWatch will monitor all this evolution . And Birmingham And Solhull Mental Health Trust will ofcourse create its own shapes of the Mental Health service related Arts. BSMHT always has its own way ......

UserWatch notes that a public relations firm under contract to the Trust called LTA Communications have been involved in the promotion of Frank and we certainly uphold the promotion of Arts in Mental Health.. The Trust position though on promotion of Users "arts" on its own website is that it does not promote organisational web-links unless they are "recognised" groups..

We have information backing this from one Sandra Kelley the IT Director. It appears true-ish unless of course you include some PDF files available for internal user circulations....We note LTA under contract to the Trust to do a press release about Frank and the Trust on its own website have in fact promoted Frank's individual website though .

That is effectively marketing someone privately whilst promoting the Trust. How fair is that on other User-Art organisations ? We would say its a great idea provided all have equal opportunity to do the same making it a level playing field otherwise there is danger of accusations of favouristism......

We repeat this theme : the MH Services some Users claim are institutionally engulfing of Users when they can use them . It appears the Services often "service themselves" on the back of that engulfment. Whenever this might change is anyone's guess. The real culture shift needed is for Users to purchase services beyond the closed health economy of the NHS Trust . The stranglehold over Users is created both by Govt and by the Services who dominate supply and the health economy. In Birmingham we see much evidence of fitterUsers who apparently cannot get outside of the Trust's health economy ... Is this real "social inclusion" or in fact a few exclusive circles that can be used by the Trust to advertise its "Social Inclusivity" .....Only Alice knows.....


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