Norfolk mental health support team axed

Norfolk County Council’s mental health home support team were told this week the service would be wound up by September, with the loss of 23 jobs.

The team offers practical support to people with mental health problems to enable them to live independently, from visits to the bank and shops, to help with planning healthy food, paying bills and applying for jobs and benefits.

One worker, who said they were told not to speak to the press, said: “Because we see people with mental health problems, sometimes more often than their own mental health care co-ordinators, we pick up changes in their mental state and can get them help. More people will be admitted to Hellesdon Hospital because there’s not the support in the community for them.”

The county council argues that personal budgets will open up opportunities for vulnerable people to control how they social care needs are met, for example employing personal assistants or home support workers.

However, another worker raised concerns about personal budgets, which gives the money directly to patients so they buy the services they want.

The worker said: “Some of the people we work with just wouldn’t be able to advertise, interview and employ people to do the work we do.”

A total of 10 home support assistant jobs will end on June 30, and 10 home support worker jobs will end on September 30. Two service co-ordinators and a managerial role are also being axed.

David Harwood, the council’s cabinet member for adult and community services, said: “With a reduction of £1.6m in funding for the county council’s mental health services over the next two years and increasing use of personal budgets, the home support service is no longer the most cost effective or best way of meeting people’s individual needs.

“While this service has been very effective in providing valuable support to people with mental health difficulties, the county council’s partnership with the Norfolk and Waveney Mental Health Foundation Trust has led to a new approach.”

He added: “In the meantime, the county council will do everything it can to avoid compulsory redundancies and redeploy staff as appropriate. A range of support measures are also available to staff.”

Alison Birmingham, Unison’s senior steward for adult social care at County Hall, said many of the staff were long-serving and it would be a blow to lose so much experience in this field, as the chances for redeployment were looking slim.

She said: “It’s a great shame this team is going to be dismantled. It’s indicative of the way the cuts have been thought out with service users and staff at the end of the line.”