Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 June 2016

Protesters step up fight to save mental health services

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 01/03/2016

A protest at Parliament Buildings yesterday over planned cuts by the Assembly to day centres across the Belfast Health Trust
A protest at Parliament Buildings yesterday over planned cuts by the Assembly to day centres across the Belfast Health Trust
A protest at Parliament Buildings yesterday over planned cuts by the Assembly to day centres across the Belfast Health Trust

Protesters have vowed to continue to fight to keep "vital" mental health day centres in Belfast open.

Around 80 people gathered at Stormont yesterday as part of ongoing demonstrations to save the day facilities.

Eight centres for people with mental health issues and learning difficulties are being reviewed by the Belfast Trust.

But there are fears among families and relatives that a number could close.

The centres include those based in Whiterock, Everton and Ravenhill that provide support for users and their families.

Among the protesters was Margaret Gibson whose son attends the Everton Complex on the Crumlin Road every afternoon.

Her son was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and she says it has been a lifeline to both her and her 29-year-old son.

"He has been there for six years now," she said.

"He was very unwell for a year and he is doing absolutely brilliantly now."

Margaret added: "For a year my son just sat in the house not talking to anyone and couldn't hold a conversation.

"The people at Everton are now his extended family.

"They are a focal point where users can develop friendships and learn new skills.

"After he saw other people like him it helped to transform his life and give him quality back in his life."

A consultation was launched by the Belfast Trust last year with a plan to centralise care as part of a change to how day services are delivered in the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust area.

A centre at Whiterock in the west of the city is also under threat, with a plan to centralise care in the east at Ravenhill Adults Centre.

The consultation document focuses on 'day opportunities' as opposed to 'day centres' and calls for a different approach to daycare.

It ended in December but the Trust has said it has "postponed sharing the outcome paper".

"We were devastated when we heard last year that it was under threat," Margaret said.

"We would spend 24 hours together. Being a carer is very stressful, but I'm getting my time and he gets his." A spokeswoman for the Belfast Trust confirmed the public consultation ended on December 10.

She said: "In order to allow full and meaningful consideration of all the responses received, the Trust has postponed sharing the outcome paper to a later Trust Board than originally planned, this will ensure that consideration of all the responses has been taken prior to any decisions regarding this proposal."

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