Category Archives: Mental Health

Kingston cutbacks will hurt vulnerable and women hardest

By Francesca Manning, Kingston Anti-Cuts Group.

Kingston Council has advertised its new budget on the basis that it freezes council tax, but behind this popular measure is a story of cuts targeted at the most vulnerable sections of local society.

The Council has identified the increasing amount of disabled and special educational needs people living to the same age as others as a financial “problem”, failing to see that this is a sign of the success of the social welfare system that it is now trying to depreciate and dismantle.

Kingston’s LibDem Council will be seeking to make “efficiencies” of £8.6 million in 2012/3 and the majority of the cuts will fall on adult social care and children’s services. Adults with learning difficulties will be forced out of residential care and back into the home, with councillors looking to “augment the provision already provided by the community” rather than actually providing comprehensive care packages. Services designed to provide care to children with special educational needs, in order to give their parents respite from their heavy duties, will be scaled back. Mental health provision will be cut by £832,000 by 2015/16.

And it’s not only service users that will be hit. In the same way that mental health services are now being amalgamated (so there are now only half as many Mental Health Teams in the borough) or turned over to social enterprises, the Council believes that they “will continue to make savings from staffing” of public services. There will be redundancies, and many jobs will be passed over into the voluntary or private sectors, opening the way for assaults on pay, pensions and conditions.

For women in the borough, the budget is a two-pronged attack. Women are often the primary caregivers for both adults and children with disabilities and special needs, meaning that cuts to those services hit them the hardest – indeed, women’s caring responsibilities are one of the main reasons for the gender pay gap. Also, the majority of the people that work in jobs providing services for the most vulnerable are women themselves, meaning that this budget puts their jobs and pay at risk.

And to add insult to injury, the Council has also committed itself to making savings of £500,000 by 2015/6 to its “Supporting People” budget, one of the roles of which is to provide help, support and shelter to women who suffer domestic abuse.

Kingston’s LibDem and Tory councillors are targeting the most disadvantaged people in the borough, and pushing women out of work or into worse conditions, while forcing them to accept more and more caring responsibilities. Those who want to protect women and the vulnerable need to look past the headline figure about council tax and join the demonstration on budget day.

Stop all the cuts! Fight for every job!
6pm 29th February at Kingston Guildhall.

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Mental health matters – Defend Rose Lodge

By Valerie Prechner

Much controversy has been caused in recent months by the Coalition’s plans to dismantle and privatise huge portions of the National Health Service. Health professionals and the public have expressed outrage that this beloved service is facing its greatest threat ever from the Health and Social Welfare Bill. And yet, there is an area of the NHS which have been consistently ignored and underfunded by successive governments, and is now silently being cut back even further: our mental health services.

The reason why these particular cuts have not caused the same outcry as other changed to the health system is that, even now in the 21st Century, mental health problems carry a stigma which is difficult to break down. In many cases, people with mental health issues feel too vulnerable to speak out, and unless we’re blessed with celebrity status, our voices our seldom heard. And yet, despite all this, mental illnesses are both prevalent and serious: 1 in 4 people suffer from one at some point in their life, and they can be fatal if not properly treated. Some may recover relatively quickly, but others may need long-term and continuing care: this is the case for the residents of Rose Lodge in New Malden.

Rose Lodge is an NHS-funded community house with room for fourteen residents and trains thirteen specially trained staff. This high level of staffing is much needed, as many residents have serious mental health issues which have either been caused by or have led to drug and alcohol use. Many have suffered a complete collapse of their lives. They have lost employment, family connections, as well as the roofs over their heads. Rose Lodge provides a unique service, operating as a transitional space between the hospital and the outside world, providing a degree of independence not afforded in an acute mental health ward, and helping residents to recover at their own pace.

Yet for all of its vital work, Rose Lodge is about to close. Some residents have already been moved onto private sector providers who lack the expertise of those who previously cared for them, or to the woefully underfunded voluntary sector. Both staff and residents are facing an uncertain future: they’re planning one last Christmas together before the axe falls and funding is withdrawn altogether.

Rose Lodge is representative of many other workplaces in Kingston where public servants dealing with vulnerable people are being made unemployed. Community mental health teams have lost their deputy managers. Surbiton and Chessington Community Mental Health Teams have been forced to merge. Surbiton CMHT’s clients have lost the quiet, initimate space it used to occupy at South Place.

All this is happening despite the government’s pledge that there “can be no health without mental health”.

These attacks on the most vulnerable in society must be challenged. We must fight to keep unique services like Rose Lodge open. The issue of mental illness may not attract as much attention as heart disease or cancer, but to everyone in the “one in four” and to residents of Rose Lodge, the existence of good, professional support can mean the difference between life and death.

NHS workers protest mental health cuts

Nurses, therapy and support staff will protest today over cuts at a board meeting of Kingston’s mental health trust.

Unison members say patient safety is being impacted by Government-driven cuts at South West London and St George’s Mental Health Trust, including ward closures at Tolworth Hospital and the privatisation of drug and rehabilitation services in Kingston.

Michael Walker, of Unison, said: “People are going to have to travel further for care.”

Read more.