Now more than ever, Leicester needs their Labour-run city Council to be resilient in the face of the government’s catastrophic reduction in the funding of all local authorities (cuts of nearly 50%). Building resilience at a local level requires that our Labour Council are “able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions”. The emphasis for our councillors therefore should be on taking actions that enable our city to recover from difficult conditions created by the government, not meekly accepting such difficulties while pretending they are helping us.
But instead of making the case for increased funding of mental health services, Leicester City Council are participating in an ongoing consultation regarding non-statutory service provision that somehow proposes to improve provision by cutting funding for such services by as much as half. According to the Council:
“This will provide real health benefits and make the best use of the money available, help improve quality, and reduce variation in what is available in different areas.”
The goal being to reduce variation (service provision) by centralising services in a small number of “locality hubs”, a change which apparently will bring about a “fundamental shift in power from providers to patients.” They explain: “Locality hubs would support a shift to resilient health rather than responding to ill health.” This is not to say that mental health problems are decreasing, in fact quite the opposite is true as they acknowledge in their consultation document:
“Improving mental health services for patients is a priority because of the many risks associated with poor mental health. The diagnosis of common mental health problems is increasing and there are high levels of people needing crisis support services.”
The consultation document thus points out that across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland around £1.5 million is spent each year on “a range of mental health services provided by voluntary sector organisations.” The most critical paragraph of the document then adds:
“Because of continuing financial pressures, the local authorities and the CCGs will all have less money to spend on these services in the future. All partners are still working out exactly what money will be available to use over the next few years, but it is possible that we may have only half as much money as is available now.”
So our Labour Council are trying to tell us that they think that cutting funding for mental health service provision in half can help improve service provision. That is not building resilience in mental health, this is a recipe for disaster that is being spun as a positive opportunity! Let’s have some honesty please.
“These changes would happen from 1st October 2017,” the consultation explains, with affected voluntary sector groups operating in Leicester city including:
- ADHAR Project
- Carers Trust / Crossroads
- Community Advice & Law Service
- Enable (Foundation Housing)
- LAMP (including Genesis)
- Leicester Housing Association Support Services / ASRA (Compass)
- Network for Change
- Rethink – Focus line (MH Support Line)
Cuts to the funding of mental health services are of course not new (see this damming report from 2013 “The impact of cuts on mental health services: Good mental health in Leicester?” or this recent article about cuts to the ADHAR Project “Cuts to Mental Health Funding Affect the Most Vulnerable”); but certainly this latest round of proposed cuts will further undermine mental health service provision. This is why it is so critical that we, the people of Leicester, stand united and demand that our Leicester’s Labour Council (Labour hold 52 of the 54 elected council seats) should, instead of passing on cuts, be building a public campaign that makes it clear that further cuts to mental health provision in Leicester and the surrounding areas is not an option.
Other vital community services are also under attack, so now our Labour councillors must stand up for our city’s future. If our councillors are not willing to do this because they do not think they can succeed in building a mass campaign against austerity (much like Liverpool Labour Council did during the 1980s) then perhaps they should step aside and allow themselves to be replaced by other Labour Party members who will offer a more resilient approach to opposing Tory austerity!
In attempting to put a positive spin on a threatened 50% cut in funding for non-statutory mental health services Cllr Rory Palmer, Leicester’s deputy city mayor and chair of the Leicester health and wellbeing board said:
“Getting help with mental health issues should be as straightforward as going to the supermarket, but often people don’t know where to start. If councils and health services can pool their funding and resources and work together more effectively, we should be able to provide the support people need in places they know within their local community. There is also much more we can do to give people the information and control they need to stay well, instead of putting our main focus on treating ill-health – and that is a key part of these proposals.”