Public Meeting held on Monday 15 December 2014 at the Wellbeing Centre, Harpurhey – 12 noon – 2pm

Manchester Users Network (MUN)

Public Meeting held on Monday 15 December 2014 at the Wellbeing Centre, Harpurhey – 12 noon – 2pm

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The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting and explained that this was a public meeting to discuss the proposed cuts in funding by Manchester City Council to mental health services.

Alan Hartman explained that there had been no formal communication with MUN with regards to take support workers away from people who needed the Recovery and Connect services.  Removing these workers will put pressure onto more people with mental health problems and cause distress and decline in their mental health.

There was also a suggestion that the Wellbeing Centre maybe shutdown too, this is a vital part of overall wellbeing services for many people with mental health issues.  Mainway has already been shutdown as was the Daisy Bank Centre, the only ones left are the Wellbeing Centre and the Orangery.  When Mainway was closed people who were on a 117 order weren’t aware they were on a 117 order but also neither did people/workers supporting them.  There appears to be no records of people on a 117 order over the last 20 years.

The domino effect once someone has been discharged but is still unwell will mean that some people end up going to ATOS, lose their bus passes, get sanctioned and so lose out on money.  This will then mean they spiral into becoming more and more unwell.  A number of people have died as a result of being referred to ATOS through stress and other illnesses as well as some people committing suicide.

MUN contacted all 96 Ward Councillors about this meeting – there is only one Councillor in attendance June Hitchens.  June has come to listen to what is said but will not be speaking at the meeting.

MUN contacted all the local MP’s – only John Leech replied by letter. John Leech’s letter was then read out.

MUN is encouraging everyone to complete the consultation document as well as writing a letter to give your views on the proposed cuts in funding which will mean the removal of some services and reduction in others.  Explain how it will affect you, your life and your family.

June Hitchens then spoke to the meeting asking that people please fill in the consultation documents.  Councillors making the decisions on cuts will see your comments; they need to know what you think.  The right decisions can’t be made if Councillors don’t know what the impact will be on local people.

Councillor Hitchens then promised to personally deliver approx. 100 copies of the consultation document on Tuesday 16 December for service users to fill in at the Wellbeing Centre.

If people need help completing the consultation documents please contact MUN or the staff at the Wellbeing Centre.

Alan then said he had attended the consultation meeting at Abraham Moss.  Only 3 people attended but they did have a lot to say, although it was noticed that no notes were being taken by the council officers running the event.

Speaker 1 – Matthew Culverhouse from Irwin Mitchell Solicitors

Matthew advised that it is very important to keep applying pressure to the Council and MP’s.  Fill in the consultation documents – in particular number 5 on the document which gives space for you to put your feelings and comments down in the document.

Where Recovery & Connect services are concerned write letters explain your concerns and what the loss of these services will mean to you and your support.

There is also a need to ask the Council to demonstrate that the activities and responses have been read by the Councillors making the decisions about the cuts in funding.

A member of staff from the Trust said that it was important to point out that you strongly disagree with spending less on mental health services.  Some of the information in the consultation document is incorrect and therefore misleading.  It states that Recovery & Connect Service is currently underused and not delivering the expected level of activity.  These services only began in 2013 so it would be difficult to gauge the success or failure of the services.

Matthew from Irwin Mitchell’s continued if there are inaccuracies in the information being presented the consultation documents – then challenge the Council about it.  If they are inaccurate then the consultation isn’t being done properly.  Also ask them to demonstrate that they have taken on board the response sent in before the decisions are made about the cuts in funding.  Ask to see the Equality Impact Assessment, remind them of the Public Sector Equality Duty towards disabled and the mentally ill.

117orders are currently part of the mental health care and recovery. Remind them they need to be meeting generally community care in these cases.

The drive towards direct payments for services through other alternative services may not cover all aspects of care for those with a mental health problem, it in fact may add to the pressures that causes mental health crisis to occur.  The Council needs to know how many people will be affected by the funding cuts.

Speaker 2 Tom Griffiths

People with mental health issues experience ups and downs.  There are often variances in the way people with mental health problems feel from day to day, from week to week – this must be understood, services needed to support mental health are not one size fits all.

George Clooney starred in the film the ‘Perfect Storm’ is a disaster film about epic failure where a chain of events causes devastation, you can liken the Council’s proposed cuts in funding to the start, the catalyst to an epic failure.

Short term cuts in funding will confuse people then create crisis for them.  Confusion adds pressure to already mentally ill people, who then become more ill and need higher end services or inpatient treatment which in turn costs more.  Short term cuts are short sighted decisions investing in prevention and support cuts costs.

A few years ago Dr John Boynton discussed a 12 step plan of how to do things better.  This perhaps should be revisited.

The consultation taking place are service users really being involved or engaged?

Welfare Reform, how can you recover if you don’t have enough money coming in because of sanctions?  Food is important in staying well, if you can’t afford the right fresh food you can’t get well.  Basic welfare funding is important and this needs to be understood.

Scenario: A man who is unable to get off a mattress on the floor and is attached to machines was being hounded to attend an assessment for returning to work.  Couldn’t get people to understand that he couldn’t attend the meeting – until his MP got involved and wrote a letter explaining his situation.

ATOS has had an effect on the number of people with mental health that has also led to an increase in suicides.

Public meetings were held about the Work Capability Assessments taking place as it was causing much distress to a lot of people who were unfit to be assessed.  People who were involved in the public meetings were adding information to the Parliamentary website to update on a regular basis what was happening.  Assessments weren’t taking into account the fact that people with mental health problems had good and bad days and other variance in health conditions.

People don’t always need legal help there is a lot they can do themselves.

There is also a concern over the loss of support groups that help people with mental health problems when the cuts take hold.

There are some terrific people out there to talk to about the cuts in funding – so keep talking.  Lobby the Councillors and MP’s.  There is also lots of expertise out there so use it!

There was recently the launch of the Greater Manchester Poverty Action Group – give them evidence about the impact of poverty and mental health.

Advocacy – MUN offers help and support but also feel free to contact Tom for support.

The Chair talked about the Wellbeing Centre and the fear that this may too be earmarked for closure.  The Daisy Bank Centre has already closed down and Mainway has already gone too.  Good mental health depends on good nutrition.  People come to the Wellbeing Centre each day and have a meal which aids them to remain well.  The food is prepared from fresh with organic produce, it’s produced by service users for service users.

If this Centre closes it will be a great loss to all.  It is often said that the building is under used.  What other uses could the building be used for?  Would better advertising and publicity help putting posters up around the area?

Speaker 3 – Malcolm Jones – author

Malcolm began by explaining that he had been a social worker in Manchester and had written the book as a therapy and to vent frustrations whilst working in Manchester.  Time is important when dealing with people with mental health difficulties and that was something he found was in short supply due to pressures of meeting targets and paperwork.  Lots of people have mental health crisis at night and where are the services to support them?  Where do these people go at night to get help?

People get detained under the Mental Health Act due to lack of services and resources, they need these services and resources before the crisis happens – when they first notice they are becoming ill.

No more cuts should be made to services – it’s an absolute disgrace.

Services users and staff should come together to discuss the way to fight these cuts.

Returning to work for people who are unwell is unhealthy and only increases the risk of a significant crisis in their mental health condition.  We need to fight the cuts.

The Chair read out a comment from a nurse Karen Riceman:  Service users in mental health services are being discharged ready or not – this is being disguised as a recovery model.

Speaker 4 Les Swain – South Manchester Users Group

Same things as discussed before are happening in the South of Manchester.

Why have staff been told already that they are about to be made redundant at the end of March if no decisions have been made yet?

How can community/peer led activities take place if there are no staff to support this?  This will cause a massive failure to support those in mental health distress.  It will create a higher cost because people will present with higher needs because there will be no prevention services to support them.  They will present as very unwell and in need of inpatient treatment which costs more.

Poems was read out by Les – Ambulance in the Valley – by John Denver.

Prevention is key as opposed to inpatient treatment and it’s also cheaper.  Institutions have been closed and this dilutes care.

Staff were transferred over to the NHS from the Council and now look like being made redundant.

A member of the Trust staff in attendance stated: MCC are saying that they will not be commissioning certain services, the Trust has said there is not an intention to make redundancies as they do not have the funding to do so.  The Trust are asking MCC for transitional funding for redundancies to be made if they are decommissioning services.

Edale is being funded to the amount of £2 million a year and is not delivering services – how does this make sense?

Question:  Stepped Down services because services are no longer available/funded means that peoples needs are not being met.  Is it possible for service users to have a letter detailing their need for support so that they can approach voluntary sector organisations that can offer some support?

Answer: Ask for a Mental Health Assessment (CPA) – this will detail what mental health needs are not being met.

Speaker 5 – Christine Curtis – service user, carer

Christine told the meeting that her brother and her son were both service users and that she had cared for them.  If cuts go ahead then service users will end up in crisis and in hospital.  Service users will fall through the net resulting in severe consequences even suicide.  Her brother had tried twice to commit suicide and her son had committed suicide.

Manchester is the male suicide capital in the UK.

Matthew Culverhouse said that there could be a legal challenge made as there is still legal aid available for people with mental health needs that are being unmet.  It appears that some of the detailed information in the consultation document is incorrect and therefore the best thing would to make a legal challenge, the best way was for a couple of people to go forward with this.  Two people said they would be willing to take this forward and would talk to Matthew at the end of the meeting.

Plan of Action

Need to contact Councillors and MP’s

MUN will help people with this they will have the contact details for the Councillors and MP’s available at their office and Alan said he would help people with the writing of the letters.

Write to the Council and copy in the MP’s, ask about the financials involved in the information about the services they want to cut.

Suggestion was made that John Leech’s letter may not be completely accurate and so that needed to be tested out.

Attend the Council’s Scrutiny Committee Meeting – Alan Hartman has asked if he could speak at the next meeting – he was told they would think about it and let him know.

Lobby Councillors.

If they are unable to provide services they need to write to all the people who will be affected and explain why and where they might get help.  Cuts in services can also mean that people lose out on benefits and bus passes and this then impacts on their mental wellbeing.

Contact Consultant Psychiatrists and get them on side and also get them writing to the various Councillors.

Mind locally do not want to get in involved as they are worried about their own funding from the Council.

Collect information and challenge consultation and make a legal challenge.

Suggestion of passing a motion that could be taken to the unions for staff involved in the services that are likely to be cut.

Get people to fill in the consultation forms.

Canvass people get them on our side, encourage them to fill in the consultation documents and write letters.

Increase followers on Twitter and use this to get the message out there.

The Chair said they would like to take a couple of photographs at the end of the meeting.

Thanks to all the speakers and the minute taker as well as everyone who has attended the meeting today.


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