Major overhaul of Camden’s care service as four mental health centres face closure

Published: 08 September 2011

A MAJOR overhaul of Camden’s care service that will affect hundreds of vulnerable mental health patients, the disabled and their carers was unveiled on Tuesday. 
Four council-run day centres – Highgate, Netherwood in West Hampstead, Raglan in Kentish Town and Shoot Up Hill in West Hampstead – will be shut down and sold-off under plans revealed to the New Journal at a special briefing at the Town Hall.
The visionary Netherwood dementia day centre won a stay of execution in April after medical professionals, carers and celebrities – including actor Ricky Gervais and violinist Nigel Kennedy – forced Camden Council chiefs to scrap plans that would have shut the centre this month.
Officials want to reinvest funds from the sales into a centralised centre that could be built in a site called Greenwood Place off Highgate Road in Kentish Town by 2014.
Called the Centre of Independent Living (CfIL), it is expected to be managed and run by charity workers with a cappuccino culture social scene that will attract the public to mingle with the disabled and mental health patients.
But carers and centre staff have expressed strong concerns about the idea of bundling people with conditions like dementia, autism and bipolar onto one site.
Adult social care chief Councillor Pat Callaghan, a former carer and nurse, said: “Traditionally people have had their own spaces, but now we have to look at different way of doing things. 
“If you put people into their own space, it institutionalises them. 
“But here they would be able to mix with the community, because they are part of our community. I mean, schoolchildren could come in there.”
She said the day centres – except Highgate – would not close until Greenwood Place was fit for purpose, adding that details and figures about cost, land value, size, layout, and housing would not be known until the end of a three-month consultation - costing £200,000 – that began this week.
Carer Jane Clinton, who led a campaign to save Netherwood from closure, said: “There is a vagueness to it all, there is nothing to grab onto, which is convenient for them and inconvenient for us.”
The major shift from satellite-style centres to a centralised service follows a massive cut in funding to the council from government, but also a policy shift too. 
People needing care can now “buy” services from wherever they choose using “personal budgets” and some using special “swipe cards”.
It comes at a time of flux for the mental health service that has seen bosses of Camden and Islington Foundation Trust rubber-stamp plans to shut two hospitals and close 100 inpatient beds. Free travel Freedom Passes have also been taken away from hundreds of mental health patients.
Internal documents reveal how staff in the centres are having their pay scales downgraded and asked to reapply for fewer jobs.
A series of 28 public meetings on the Greenwood proposals will take place during consultation which runs until December 5.
l For more ­information visit the council’s website


mixing with the communinty

I attend a mental health day service. I spend the majority of my time 'mixing with the community' which is a real struggle for me. Being able to attend a day centre where there are clear boundaries and sensitivities to my difficulties for a few hours a couple of days in the week is incredibly important to me.

Knowing that it is a closed environment with vetted 'safe' people is also important to me.

Bringing the general public into the space completely breaks that. Especially "schoolchildren could come in there." Schoolchildren are notoriously insensitive to people with mental health issues. I once heard a one of a group of 'volunteer' schoolkids on their way in to help with an art project shout 'hurry up, the mongs are waiting'. (just one example)

There is still a lot of stigma associated with mental health and while mixing the public with patients might help to lessen this, until there is a lot more education about the issue the public isn't ready to be mixed in.

Further to that different conditions have entirely different needs. EG While other bipolar/mental health patients might understand someone's manic high or constant chattering, a patient with asperger's or autism might find it intimidating or incredibly difficult to be around.

The personal budget scheme in Camden is called 'Better care choices' and is an implementation of government policy. This centre is not about providing 'choices' it is about reducing it.

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