Leeds Crisis Centre recommended for closure

Anger from campaigners as council chiefs are recommended to close service which offer free short-term counselling and support in Leeds

Senior councillors are being asked to approve the closure of the Leeds Crisis Centre – much to the anger of local campaigners fighting to save the facility.

The Headingley-based centre provides free short-term counselling and support for adults struggling to cope with their daily routine because something stressful has happened in their lives.

But due to budget pressures, the council says it is no longer able to provide the service, which costs in the region of £700,000 a year to run. It says counselling services are not a statutory function of local authorities and that similar services already exist in the city and are provided by NHS Leeds.

Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive board member with responsibility for adult social care, told Guardian Leeds that budget pressures were behind the decision, which will be debated by the council’s executive board next Friday. She added:

    “It’s unaffordable for us to continue to run the Leeds Crisis Centre when we look at our statutory responsibilities to protect the most vulnerable in our society over the coming year.

    “At the end of the day the NHS can meet the demand for this sort of service in Leeds. They don’t provide identical services, but they are similar.

    “We don’t want to close Leeds Crisis Centre – and this has been a painful decision – but in our financial position we simply don’t have any other option.”

Campaigners speak out against recommendation

A spokesman for the Save Leeds Crisis Centre campaign said the council’s executive board report failed to address the central question. He said:

    “Nothing is said about the 500 people each year who are currently deemed too high risk for any other service, but who get instant (sometimes same-day) access to counselling at the centre. There is no plan for them, just “conversations” with colleagues at the NHS, who elsewhere in the document are described as having declined to put any funding into crisis counselling.

    “The council report is impressive on double speak. Whereas before the council talked of the service being duplicated, now it admits that no other service is quite the same.

    “Lots of other counselling services are mentioned, presumably to give board members the feeling that all bases are covered. If this were true, those other services would not refer hundreds of their most vulnerable clients to the Crisis Centre. Where the report talks about other services, it glosses over their long waiting lists, or the fact that they are available only to people with a long-term mental illness diagnosis.

    “One of the most telling responses is to concerns about the lack of consultation. The many views expressed by GPs, services users and others on our website are ignored. The council makes no excuse for not having a consultation, on the basis that “closure is the only viable option”. The “we know best” arrogance is startling. How can councillors and officials be sure of the only option, if they have spoken to no experts and costed out no options other than closure?”

Chris Butler, chief executive of the Leeds Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust, said in a statement:

    “Our Crisis Resolution and Home Treatment (CRHT) service is a specialist team of mental health and social care professionals who respond to serious psychiatric emergencies by providing intensive home-based treatment and support.

    “It is a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week service. We are confident that we have the capacity to deal with any additional referrals which may result from the proposed closure of the Leeds Crisis Centre safely and appropriately. We can see people very quickly and on the same day if a person needs it. People with less serious problems can, as now, be referred by their GP to Leeds Community Healthcare’s Primary Care Mental Health Worker service.”

The council is in discussion with NHS mental health services over redeployment opportunities for staff at the centre.