Far be it from me –

Guest Blog by Amanda Godley SpeakUp CIC

What’s happening to mental health services?

Over the past two years here in Kent we have seen a reorganization of services by KCC who are no longer responsible for the commissioning and monitoring of the Social Care Services for people with Mental Health problems. These services are now being, in part, delivered and, in part, commissioned by Shaw Trust and Porchlight in Kent. As a result of this new structure the services that are available have been reduced to minimalist services that are time limited and are focused on people returning to work or taking part in the main stream community once they are ‘recovered’. Now those of us with a mental health condition know how hard it is to take part in the main stream community and/or go back to work. Having unmanageable expectations can lead, at best, to much anxiety and increased isolation, as well as, disappointment and, at worst, to a complete relapse where there is no guarantee of help from secondary services. The NHS is also feeling the pinch and is unable to help all those in need of Mental Health Support in crisis and indeed are looking to the voluntary/third sector to enhance their services and work alongside them to aid people’s recovery. The continued pulling out of the rug from under our feet is leading to many, many more people falling through the net and becoming disconnected and isolated from the rest of the community with suicides and homelessness surely on the increase. Society and structures within it are fragmented and broken taking it’s toll on people and no less the community of people with severe mental health difficulties for whom there seems very little to hang on to or help them. With a society that only cares for no 1 and looking after itself there is no room for the frail and vulnerable as everyone is busy looking after their own self-interest. If you are alone and isolated it really is tough luck right now! However, I digress, the point is that with the new structure of services in Kent people are missing out on the help they really need to live a life that in some part gives meaning and quality to their journey. Not everyone is able to cope with the 21C and its ideals.

Currently SpeakUpCIC are able to provide some respite from the pressures of the world and help to support members to break down isolation and build a social network. This work runs alongside the valuable user forum work we do giving people a voice and feeding back to commissioners and managers in order to help make services better at what they do to help people. However, we have noticed over the last two years a gradual squeezing out of users’ forums and the work we do, it seems that the powers that be no longer want to hear about the shortcoming of the services, so they can in some part correct them. It seems that the service users voice is no longer valued and/or wanted. As part of this the future of the Mental Health Service Users’ Forums around Kent are being sold off to the highest bidder in the same way that Social Care for Mental Health Services have been. Being empowered and speaking up against injustice or simply the shortcomings of services, that could with some investment deliver so much more of value to the service user, is on the brink of being a thing of the past. The independent voice of service users is now little short of becoming a thing of the past and will be left to those who can feather their own nests. So God help you if you are frail and weak in this society!

By Amanda Godley


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