My place at the mental health day centre has been cancelled due to council cuts so, instead, I’ve been referred to my GP’s social prescribing service. In other words, I’ll get to meet once with someone who’ll go through a list of activities that are available to the general public in my local area, and then I’ll be left to get on with it. Social prescribing is a really good idea and will provide a valuable service for many people I’m sure. It’s something that hopefully will spread to more areas. But that’s hardly equivalent to a specialist day centre for people diagnosed with serious mental health problems. Not in any way.
As @444blackcat said:
As @ManchesterMind said:
“So many mental health projects (garden, bread making, football etc) [are] underpinned by giving people somewhere to just ‘be’.”
The problem with withdrawing access to a day centre is that lots of people will just sit at home, stare at the walls & quietly deteriorate. People whose lives had meaning, hope, connection and richness through being able to meet and share and do in a safe space – curtailed. Instead of being able to gradually meet people, gain confidence, get involved, take on volunteer roles, even prepare for or start college, or move into part- of even full-time employment, as some did – zero. Instead of having a place to go whether you’re well or unwell (sometimes very unwell) to do activities or just be – a closed door.
There’s far more to good mental health than welfare benefits, medication and talking therapies – but that’s all we’re left with, now the doors of the day centre are shut to us. Having that nurturing space to meet and be was a haven from which we could branch out and do other things – and we did! But not any more. What’ll happen now to people who could’ve had art exhibitions, run craft stalls, performed in bands – all arising from the day centre. Nothing. The day centre wasn’t a bunker from which we never emerged: it was a springboard, a platform to reach out into the mainstream. Now gone. The day centre was a hub where we could meet all sorts of people who wouldn’t judge or flinch when we described tough experiences. Now what?
There were so many fantastic activities on offer, but the day centre is so much more than that. There were any number of options to try, and you could try as many as you liked. You could gradually explore different options and maybe try things you hadn’t done since childhood or take up something completely new. It was a chance to explore in a world where your diagnosis or mental health struggles didn’t need to play any part. You could be good at something, rather than focussing on all the things you were bad at or couldn’t do any more or would never have.
Adult education courses and activities in the commuity have their place, but they are in no way equivalent to what’s offered by the day centre. Not at all. Courses, and the space in which they happen, are the vehicle through which all sorts of other valuable interactions and activities take place. Designated learning outcomes for courses delivered in chunks over terms entirely miss the point of all the other things the day centre does. There’s far more to good mental health than going on courses – especially if you’re managing a long-term condition when consistent attendance may not be possible due to periods of ill-health and when attending a course with the general public is in no way the support needed when poorly. Social anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder, depression – hardly conditions that make it easy to organise, motivate & attend courses with the general public. Offering as an alternative stand-alone courses with the general public or people seen in primary care entirely misses the point.
I am so angry at the corporate crap that was tweeted at me earlier about people needing a “menu of choices”. It is not “choice” for service users when a service is withdrawn overnight. It is not choice for us when the doors of a day centre people have used for years are shut with only a couple of weeks’ notice. It is not, not, NOT an improved “menu of choices” to cut access for disabled people from 4 days a week (plus evening activities) to 50 hours per year.
I am, quite frankly, stumped as to how the council was able to introduce this massive cut to services for people managing serious long-term mental health conditions without consultation or outcry. I simply cannot understand how it can be acceptable to withdraw an entire layer of support for disabled people all in one go. Whoosh! Nor how it is lawful: council’s owe duties to provide services to disabled people, and also owe duties when introducing cuts.
I listen to the news. I hear of cuts being made to council budgets. However, they’re 5% or 10% or even 50% – but not 100%. And that’s what’s happened here. All of a sudden, without consultation or warning, the day centre’s doors have been closed to dozens (perhaps hundreds) of disabled people. There’s a difference between austerity, belt-tightening, all being in it together – and cutting off a vital outlet, support and “protective factor” for disabled people.
Who are these people who think a cut of that magnitude could possibly be perceived as “choice”? Corporate drones in cosy offices, I suppose, who use the word “choice” when they want to disguise the word “cuts”. Perhaps they even believe it themselves now. I don’t know how they can look themselves in the mirror when they go to work every day. There’s a difference between taking tough decisions and screwing over vulnerable people.
I’m just going to choose* this rather tasty banana bread into slices. *cut
Ouch! I just chose* my finger on this piece of paper. *cut
I love the choice* of that dress on you; it’s so flattering. *cut
Many like to choose from a menu range of options, so we’re giving you more choice*. *cuts
Oh, did I say “choice”? I meant CUTS you fools. Bwa ha ha ha ha!
Seriously, do these corporate bods think we’ve completely lost our senses? Oh, yes, of course, they do: mental patients.
If there’s a service such as a day centre that you value, better prepare for the possibility that the same “choice” might happen to you. Prepare now and you’ll be ready to fight back and challenge the decision. It’s harder to regain access than to stop it being taken away. Apart from rumours, we didn’t know. We weren’t warned. We weren’t asked. And now it’s gone. Don’t let yours be taken away without a fight.
- My tweets on the topic followed by conversations with the lovely twitter people (v2: just my tweets) (v3: everyone’s tweets, arranged chrononlogically) (v4)