Health volunteers may face devastating cuts

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Chesterfield mental health charities have been told to brace themselves for a fresh bout of cuts which campaigners say won’t actually save any money.

Organisations which work in conjunction with Derbyshire County Council and the NHS, and are totally funding by public money, could face major changes as austerity cuts pull back funding, claims a source in the voluntary sector.

The news of potential cuts emerges at a time when the government has called for a change of approach in the NHS, giving ‘parity’ to mental health against physical health, and meanwhile campaigners say the state is failing to protect the country’s most vulnerable groups.

Disability rights campaigner Adrian Rimington said groups have been warned that at least £100,000 of cuts may be on the way for groups in the Chesterfield area.

He added: “We were given a meeting that was a fore-runner to this cuts,

They are softening up organisations whom they fund for cutbacks if not total withdrawal of funds.

“They are intimating this now to prepare us for what might happen in 18 months time.”

Rethink Chesterfield is making preparations to take the impact of funding cuts, added Adrian, also a coordinator for the organisation.

He said: “They are preparing the service users, as in telling them what else is out there in the community, so they know where there will be something to go for if they are pulled.

“Disability campaigners are a opposed to cutbacks in any form. Ultimately these organisations deal with the mentally ill whom are the most vulnerable people in society, and the services they receive are lifelines to many. People need the moral support and counselling that they provide, so without them, what would happen?

Three will be people making more calls to their GP, more calls to mental health facilities, hospitals - any saving they make will be a false economy.”

The review of ‘Early intervention, enablement and recovery services’ in the community could mean self help groups and support services will go back to struggling on their own, at a time when we have to re-think how voluntary services work with local authorities, said Mark Hudson, centre manager for Dora which supports numerous groups.

He added: “The fact they couldn’t make any promises didn’t come as unusual because they’re in uncharted waters at this time.

He added: “They were just looking for ideas for the kindest way it can be done, to find a way to take our services forward the best we can, and if we had to make cuts how would we deal with cuts and still maintain services.”

“I think they appreciate what we do, and it’s with regret that they said they can’t promise to take everyone with them, but they hope to take as any organisations as possible.”

Mr Hudson also said that he’s quite comfortable about Dora’s prospects for the future, despite the idea he may have to lose his paid full-time role with the organisation which currently receives around £45,000 of public funding.

He added: “I’m not fearing for Dora’s future - the self-help model is well-respected.

“The voluntary sector has to adapt - it’s not the same world it was 20 years ago. There are pressures on funding at the moment, and there are lots of voluntary organisations that don’t receive any funding at all.”

“We need to look at ourselves and make sure we are value for money. The taxpayer puts a lot of money into this and we need to be looking for cut backs.”

Jackie Willis of North Derbyshire Voluntary Action, at the meeting, said: “As yet no decisions have been made but we do recognise that the pressures on statutory funds are considerable and if there were any cuts it would have to go to full consultation.”

Hardwick Clinical Commissioning Group said it was having to look at priority areas to work with the voluntary sector.

A spokesperson said: “The NHS nationally is committed to increasing its spend on mental health, and this is something we fully support in Derbyshire. Hardwick CCG is committed to ensuring that all spending of public money represents good value and that we buy the best services we can. We are therefore working with the other Derbyshire CCGs and Derbyshire County Council to develop a set of principles and identify priority areas for the mental health services we commission from the voluntary sector.

“We are at an early stage of the process, but any changes to our commissioning from the voluntary sector would involve engagement with the services and those people who use them.”

A Derbyshire County Council spokesman said: “We’re committed to providing the strongest possible support with the resources available to improve people’s mental health wellbeing.

“It’s important that the same level of co-ordinated support is available to people when they need to access it, no matter where they are in the county. Our meeting with voluntary sector representatives was part of an on-going review to ensure this is achieved in the most efficient way possible.

“It’s early days in the review and we’ll continue to work with our voluntary sector colleagues and service users before any proposals are made.”