A slap in the face? Unison claim £300,000 Salford mental health centre is ‘smokescreen’ for massive job cuts
06 Feb 2014 –
A proposed £300,000 Salford mental health centre is a ‘smokescreen’ to hide the fact that staff needed to run the facility face massive job cuts, a union source has said.
The mental health intermediate care centre, which was officially announced on Monday, would manage tenant’s mental health and provide help with integrating back into society.
However, MM has learned that many of the staff who would be needed to run the centre are set to lose their jobs in April, if proposed Salford Council budget cuts take effect.
The mental health floating support service which workers are employed in will be seeing a reduction in funding of £214,000 under the council budget cuts.
Steve North, branch secretary of Salford Unison, has been involved in the proposed centre’s planning and says the announcement is a ploy by Salford Council.
“On the face of it this looks like a really positive development,” North told MM.
“However, Salford council have made constant references to the fact that staff will work with people from hospital throughout recovery, but the staff aren’t going to be there to be able to do it.
“It’s a bit of a slap in the face, because we’ve done all that work, and now it’s going to count for nothing, I think what they are trying to do is put a smokescreen over what is actually going to happen.”
Under the proposals those working in the residential sector are expected to retain their jobs, while those working in the community care sector are expected to be hit hard.
North says the community care workers are a fundamental part of the proposed mental health centre, at least that is how is has always been presented.
“They’re the people whose role it actually is to get these people back out into the community engaging with the world of work, engaging with education, engaging with volunteering,” he said.
“Engaging with various social activities, to try and integrate them into society, they’re the people whose funding are being cut.”
North told MM that Unison have gone into dispute with the council and have threatened balloting for industrial action if forced redundancies occur.
He also said that service users have already organised a community meeting to discuss it and staff have gone into collective dispute.
Despite feeling ‘deflated’ North says he still fully supports the new mental health centre, but not at the detriment of the workers.
He said: “This £300,000 is welcomed, but it’s an investment into a building. A building does not help people. A building does not help people recover from the trauma of mental health problems.
“And I think that saying, ‘we’re going to put 300,000 in this building obscures the fact that at the same time they’re going to be taking well over £300,000 out of the budget for the staff that are going to be required to make sure this thing works.
Salford Council responded by telling MM that they are trying to provide the best care possible while having to cope with government cuts that lead to redundancies.
A spokesman for Salford City Council said: “We are keen to make sure that mental health services focus on recovery – hence the investment in a new, intermediate care service which will help people with greatest need.
“However we are having to do this against a background of savage government funding cuts which means making difficult choices. There is a proposal to reduce the amount of low level community support we provide so our staff can focus on the recovery of those in greatest need and signpost those who need community support to voluntary organisations and other sources.
“Salford City Council’s policy is to avoid compulsory redundancy where possible. We are discussing options ranging from voluntary severance to early retirement or redeployment with staff.”
The proposed budget cuts are set to be discussed with Salford City Council on the February 26.
Image courtesy of Ana Hine, with thanks