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Users’ fears over new set-up at Finsbury Park day centre

Concern over reliance on volunteers to provide mental health services after funding is slashed

31 May, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Isledon Road Resource Centre, in Finsbury Park

A MENTAL health day centre will no longer be run by the NHS from Monday and will be reliant on volunteers following a cut in funding.

Users of Isledon Road Resource Centre, in Finsbury Park, say they are “anxious” and “concerned” about changes which mean the borough no longer has an NHS-run mental health day centre.

Mental health organisation Islington Mind will take over the running of the centre following a tendering process by the Town Hall, which offered providers £300,000 less than previous years to run the borough’s mental health day services.

As previously reported in the Tribune, to cut costs the council also agreed to stop services at a centre in Angel offering one-to-one counselling. Some users have created an action group opposing the cuts.

One action group member, who uses day centre services at Isledon Road which offer art classes and counselling, said: “I’m still trying to get my head around all the changes and the loss of the staff I trust and respect.

“I’m trying to see the positives, but I still have concerns and anxieties about how effective the new service will be in maintaining our wellbeing. It’s a case of wait and see and try to embrace the changes.”

The new centre will be more reliant on volunteers. Islington Mind is seeking volunteers to work at least one day a week at its three centres.

The job description on the Islington Mind website says volunteers “will be assisting service users who experience mental distress in one-to-one and/or in group settings”.

The Isledon Road service user, who wishes to remain anonymous, voiced “concern at the lack of well-trained mental health professionals” at the centre, with the majority of NHS staff being relocated to other services.

But the service user has worked with volunteers from Mind who were “very competent, sensitive and brought considerable skills to the role”.

Isledon Road centre users have been told that changes will happen gradually.

An Islington Council spokeswoman said: “Cam­den and Islington NHS Foundation Trust will still play a formal role in the delivery and remain a key partner of Islington Mind.

“We are confident that the new service will continue to deliver excellent support to local people.”

She added: “Peer roles are a complementary support system alongside clinical treatment. Peer-led interventions are widely commended, including by the Mental Health Foundation and the National Institute for Health and Care, for improving engagement with community and outpatient services.

“The approach has also been found to help reduce the need for hospitalisation, to lead to increased engagement with crisis-prevention services and to increase people’s empowerment and quality of life.

“The council is very much looking forward to the opening of the new service, which has been extensively designed with people who will use it.”

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