Fighting cuts in mental health services

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2012 Health Care Service Group Conference
15 December 2011

Mental health services have always been under-resourced in relation to the scale of health need. Since the foundation of the NHS they have suffered from the social stigma associated with mental illness; firstly housed in remote, locked “asylums”, they were never the recipients of proportionate increases in funding as health services budgets increased; staff received less training and salary banding was often lower than other parts of NHS (nor were mental health services the recipients of “cute” charity donations).

Now, we are facing massive cuts in services in NHS and social welfare, bought on by the Government’s support for the banking sector in this financial crisis. Job losses, income squeeze and social crises inevitably lead to increasing anxiety, stress and depression. There are proven links between social deprivation and increased prevalence of mental illness.

We need to fight for humane, well-resourced mental health services now – more than ever. We need to give priority to organising in the mental health sector so that we can develop our own organisation and the resilience of the community to defend our employment and our health.

We need to share experiences across branches and employers and develop strategies for fighting back:

– examining the attacks on working methods and professional good practice that are built into the repeated “community mental health service reviews” and in-patient “service re-configurations” – as well as the straight forward cuts we are experiencing

– develop working with the growing and combative users and carers movements as well as community based anti-cuts movement to defend against cuts in mental health services.

We call on the SGE to:

1)facilitate discussion between branches, at a regional, sectoral and professional basis (e.g. in workshops for mental health support workers, workers in occupational therapy, mental health nurses, community mental health staff, etc) from which to

2)develop a strategy for fighting the increasing barbarity of mental health service delivery in a context of increasing cuts, inadequate staffing and over-worked mental health teams and ward staff

3)prioritise the fight against cuts in mental health services (to include UNISON branches in the health, the local government and voluntary and community sectors)

4)work alongside the NEC to liaise with branches in the local government and community sectors to highlight the unequal effects of cuts to mental health services; and to provide support including educational and resource materials to help branches in all sectors work to fight against cuts in mental health services.