There’s a report in today’s Manchester Evening News which tells about further massive cuts to mental health services in Manchester and that the Manchester Health and Social Care Trust is expected to close down completely.
While none of the detail has, as far as I can see been officially confirmed or denied as yet, I don’t think anyone who knows the history of mental health services in Manchester will be remotely surprised if this does turn out to be true. The writing has been on the wall for the Trust almost since the day it was set up. This is partly because funding available for mental health services in Manchester has never been anything like enough to meet the need and partly because for a whole set of complicated reasons, the ambitions of the Trust when it started have never really been achieved despite the best efforts of a great many dedicated people over the years. Understanding why is for another day. A proper review of how we got here is needed.
What I want to focus on at this moment is the importance of listening to users of services - particularly at a time of change. Over the years Macc has had strong involvement in mental health work with the public and voluntary sector (all led by my former colleague John Butler who left us only a few weeks ago following funding reductions). In particular, we have tried to maintain a strong focus on supporting user organisations and working collaboratively with groups like Manchester Users Network who have been lobbying and campaigning for many many years to try to get services to be as good as they can be. Remember that despite being in the 21st Century where we can land a spaceship on a comet millions of miles away, we have still not addressed some pretty basic things like the stigma and discrimination faced by people who have mental health needs - and so we should celebrate as heroes the people who stand up in front of others and share their personal experiences of illness and using services.
One of the recurring features of mental health in Manchester has been an apparently endless stream of consultations and service reviews (I shudder to think how much has been spent on this over the years). While the aim of engaging people in services is something we would strongly support, after so many consultations users found that they were making the same points, asking for the same standards over and over again. Because of this we worked with user groups to go back through all these consultation responses and put together the set of key messages which users have been consistently promoting and turned those into the Manchester Mental Health Charter. It seems to me that given today’s story this is a good time to recap those messages.
Charter for Mental Health Services in Manchester
1. We want to feel that we’ve been listened to
2. We want to have a real influence on services
3. We want to be part of services
4. We want to be part of our own care
5. We want services to decrease stigma
6. We want services to think properly about the consequences of changing what they provide
7. We want services that work for people from all the different communities and cultures in Manchester
8. We want services to understand us as whole people
9. We want to know what services are available
10. We want to know what’s happening in services
Whether or not final decisions have been made or are still in the process, it’s essential that the voices of users are put at the centre of the conversation. That is more important than ever at a time like this: people who need support will feel vulnerable, anxious and scared by what these reductions in services will mean for them. Involving them in the discussions and decision making is the best means of addressing that.
Further detail on the Charter is here: https://www.manchestercommunitycentral.org/charter-mental-health-services-manchester