"The threatened closure of a vital mental health support needs art project in Lewisham, London."

About: Adult mental health (Lewisham)

(as a service user),

South London and the Maudsley NHS and the PCT trust have started a 30 day consultation process to close the communtiy opportunity services which Network Arts Project is a part of.

The staff have been told Network Arts which is art project for people with severe and enduring mental health support needs, will close in December 2011.

We as members are deeply distressed and outraged at this decision. No impact/risk assessment has been done on anyone from the project and even though a few people have recieved a letter informing us about the change to service and that direct payments will be replacing it, i would choose for my direct payment to go to Network Arts only how can it if they shut the project? How is that more choice for me and the other members?

People have already been admitted to hospital through their distress over the way this has been handled. I am worried that many more people will suffer if the trust does not listen to us.

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Response from Patrick Gillespie, Service Director, Psychosis Clinical Academic Group, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust We are preparing to make a change

Dear darkskies,

Thank you for taking the time to raise your concerns with us. I am sorry if the proposed changes to Lewisham Community Opportunities Service (COS) are causing you and other members of Network Arts upset and distress. This was never our intention. While I understand the alarm this news may be causing, I would like to reassure you that the new, reorganised service will still be able to help people who attend Network Arts, as well as supporting many more people than it currently does.

The service changes we are proposing have been prompted by a large reduction in the funding received from the Government. This means we cannot simply continue providing services in the same way as in the past and must instead find more cost effective ways of working with fewer resources. In total, Lewisham COS has to find savings of £600,000.

To deal with this large reduction in funding we are reorganising Lewisham COS. As you correctly point out, the new, reorganised service will offer service users direct payments. COS will provide each service user with assistance on spending their direct payments, with a particular focus on providing employment and career training opportunities, as we know these are highly valued by people with mental health problems.

The more efficient way the service will be organised means that many more of the 1300 people that use SLaM services in Lewisham can benefit from the support and other opportunities provided through COS. This compares to only 450 people who currently receive a level of service that we cannot continue to provide in the current financial climate.

I understand that Network Arts is important to you and other members, but unfortunately we cannot afford to continue providing this type of service, while many other service users receive no help or support at all.

The long-term impact upon services and service users would be greater had we not made this difficult decision. That said, the new COS service will help people currently using Network Arts to find organisations offering similar services, as well as many other meaningful activities, whether paid or voluntary, that contribute to mental wellbeing.

I hope this explanation helps to ease some of the distress you are feeling. If you would like more information on the changes to Lewisham COS, please feel free to contact me.

Yours sincerely

Patrick Gillespie

Service Director, Psychosis Clinical Academic Group

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Update posted by darkskies (a service user)

Dear Patrick,

I get the impression that with 8 days until the consultation period is to close, your answer to me seems rather concrete and your decision has already been made according to this posted response. How can you disregard the consultation process with such little respect?

You say you are closing Network Arts to give me more choice in services but there is no other service i want to attend where there is this type of supportive atmosphere and art created. Not everyone is capable of employment or training opportunities due to their mental ill health being as it is.

Your 'difficult desicion' made in your 6th paragragh shows your disregard for the consultation process. Your explanation does not ease my distress it increases it as it shows your callous regard for the legal consultation process and your decision to shut the wonderful service before this has been completed just shows your true colours. You have made me very angry as well as distressed.

Yours, Darkskies