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Around 80 service users, mental health workers and other attended a meeting hosted by Leeds UNISON at Leeds Civic Hall this Tuesday to discuss the councils plans to close two day centres and the Leeds Crisis Centre.

Iain Dalton, Leeds City Socialist Party

Tony Pearson, from the Yorkshire regional UNISON outlined the callous cuts the council were proposing for a mere saving at best on £600,000 . The Crisis Centre at Headingley is award winning and avoids patients having to wait a minimum of 3 months for treatment through the NHS, clearly vital in dealing with severe and sudden mental health issues.

The second speaker was Norman Forsyth a service user, and spokesperson for service users in the area. He pointed out the value of these services in particular the day centres where various services are accessed through them, with visits from art groups, music groups and the Citizens Advice Bureau, as well as having an environment to discuss the mental health problems with others experiencing similar things. He also asked the question that if the day centres close and they are pushed out into the community where are they supposed to meet given that the council are closing leisure centres, libraries and other public services too. He explained how the council had failed to seriously consult both staff and service users, later pointing out that one of councillors is a director of one of the private sector companies that might get a contract if the day centres close!

The discussion from the floor reflected many people there’s high valuing of the services that the council is currently providing, with many moving stories of how the crisis centre and day centres have been vital for them or members of their families. There was also a discussion of the way forward for the campaign to save these services, with Andy Smith from Leeds Trinity Students Against Cuts raising the need to challenge the council over the necessity of them doing the Con-Dem’s dirty work for them, others explained the massive increased cost to the NHS will wipe out any savings, with an estimated 500 lives a year saved by the Crisis Centre. Some people reported setting up a petition aimed at their local councillors to extend the consultation and look at other options to the cutting the centres outright. The campaign to save these centres should be linked up with other campaigns to demand that the council refuses to implement the governments cuts and instead set a budget that meets the needs of local residents and organise a mass campaign to force the funding necessary to continue funding the day centres and crisis centre along with other vital public services in Leeds. The devastation of the £90m in cuts the council is wanting to make will put further pressure on mental health services in the city if it is not stopped, so it is urgent that campaigners link up with the Leeds Against the Cuts campaign to build a wider movement against all cuts.

There will be a lobby of the council executive board this Friday at 12 noon against these cuts, all are urged to attend. We also urge readers to look at the Save Leeds Crisis Centre blog which is covering these cuts and the response of the council in more details.