Mental health charity in £500k funding cut

A MENTAL health charity says vulnerable people could be put at risk as it is to lose almost £500,000 funding.

NHS Leeds has decided to cut the cash it pays for services provided by Leeds Mind.

That means that two projects which help people with mental health problems will have to shut and around 15 people could be made redundant.

Health bosses say the changes are part of a review and that they want to minimise the impact on users.

But Leeds Mind says the cuts could affect the recovery of people with mental health problems. Julian Turner, chief executive, said: "Many people will be deprived of a service as the proposed alternatives will not be suitable for, or indeed available to, many people.

"We urge NHS Leeds to reconsider this decision and to fully consider the implications.

"It is quite wrong that such cost-effective services are summarily cut without full investigation of what the knock-on impact on vulnerable people and the financial costs are likely to be."

Mr Turner said they had been told the funding would be withdrawn from next April.

He said NHS Leeds wanted to create a city-wide employment service for those with mental health issues – but Leeds Mind already runs a scheme doing this.

Services like befriending offered a lifeline to vulnerable people, he said, and as many were run by those who had experienced mental health difficulties, also gave opportunities for volunteering and employment.

He added: "We have been told by NHS Leeds that our services no longer fit the priorities of Leeds health commissioners.

"Despite providing a range of effective and responsive services to people, we now have to lay off staff and shut down valued services."

He said though they understood the need to reduce costs, removing funding was "disproportionate".

A spokeswoman for NHS Leeds said it was investing over 1.4m in mental health services provided by the voluntary sector this year.

"In addition, throughout 2010, we will be reviewing community service provision to refocus current investment in day services into employment support for mental health service users," she said.

"We are committed to working with Leeds Mind to minimise any potential adverse effects of these changes on their service users, while enabling the organisation to compete for any new opportunities that may arise through future community service developments.

"We are committed to a vibrant and sustainable third sector across Leeds, but need to ensure we commission services to provide the right outcomes from the sector, as we also look to achieve through our contracts with NHS providers."

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