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Mental health day centre axe shock for users

Closure of Angel service is blamed on funding cuts

19 October, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Cllr Janet Burgess: ‘We are committed to meeting the mental health needs of our residents’

SOME of the borough’s most vulnerable residents have been left “beside themselves with grief” after the Town Hall announced that a mental health day centre will close during a restructuring of services.

Councillors at a Town Hall executive meeting yesterday (Thursday) were expected to agree to the closure of day centre facilities at Mind Empower in Angel to save money.

The centre, in Southwood Smith Street, offers a wide range of services for residents experiencing mental health issues, including yoga, gardening groups and one-to-one key work. But the Town Hall argues their new plans will offer “more joined-up” services.

A small number of service users have got together to form an action group against the closure which was first tabled in June, ahead of a consultation.

One member of the group, who did not want to be named, said ahead of the meeting: “People are getting depressed by the process, we are clinging on, but some people are beside themselves with grief. The services are important.

“I don’t agree with the cuts in the first place. Islington has one of the highest percentages of people with mental health problems in the country – more funding should be go in, not out. It’s a big change, not a little change. I think the council are underplaying how much it will affect people. I am also worried about the staff and where they will go.”

She added that a similar service in Isledon Road, Finsbury Park, which is run by the NHS, “helps me survive”.

“You are with others who understand you. You don’t have to put on a brave face, you have a cup of tea, sit in the garden and, for me, that’s important. It really helps me survive.”

The council document highlights how closing the centre risks having a “negative impact” on service users and there is a “risk of deterioration in service user mental health and increased isolation if uptake with the new service decreases”.

The Town Hall had previously proposed closing the Mind Spa, in Crouch Hill, which offers support and counselling to members of the LGBT community as well as women-only drop-in sessions.

But the council decided against closing the Mind Spa as it “would result in significant detrimental impact on individuals with a range of protected characteristics”. The day centre services are currently run by mental health charity Mind.

The closure of Mind Empower will save the council £65,000 a year from running costs but officials are looking to find savings of £300,000 a year during their tendering process to find the organisation that will run their mental health recovery services.

The council say they hope to achieve this through “contracting arrangements [that] are expected to provide the opportunity for further efficiencies, through a revised staffing and delivery model” and by “reducing the number of day service sites and combining management costs and overheads across all services”.

The new contract starts in May next year.

Islington Council’s health chief, Cllr Janet Burgess, reassured service users this week that changes would be for the better.

She said: “We are committed to meeting the mental health needs of our residents, and we propose to design a new mental health community support and recovery service which better meets the needs of local residents.

“We know some people who need support don’t currently use our mental health day services, and we think our pathways between services can be more joined-up than they are currently. This will improve the accessibility and quality of services to support people to access employment support, social activities and support after hospital care to support their recovery. We know how important these services are, so we have been closely working with service users to re-design these services.

“At a time of ongoing Government cuts to council funding, we’re having to look very carefully at how we provide many services.

“We have taken all feedback into account following our consultation this summer. After very careful consideration of all factors, we propose that Mind Spa at Ashley Road will remain open, and Mind Empower on Southwood Smith Street will close. This allows us to prioritise our resources for staff, activities and the direct delivery of care and support services. Islington will continue to have three mental health day centres to give help and support to our residents.

“We completely understand concerns and anxiety over the closure of Southwood Smith Street. We will of course continue to support everyone who has been using services at Southwood Smith Street.”

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