Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/894/22449
Cuts that destroy vulnerable lives
"As a carer, I am expected to pick up the slack"
The feature 'Mental health - system in crisis' in issue 888 (see www.socialistparty.org.uk) was excellent and highlighted very well the viewpoints of both a mental health worker and a service user. I thought it would good to add to the topic with the impact on carers and families.
Where I live in Stafford we are very lucky to have access to one of the better mental health trusts. Unfortunately, this is being slowly chipped away.
The person I care for has suffered quite a few changes over the last month. He usually has a community psychiatric nurse who calls fortnightly to give him his medication via injection.
This is also a time to chat and to sort out any issues or concerns. For me as a carer it is a vital lifeline and contact.
The trust has now decided to hold a clinic instead, where patients will make their own way to hospital for their injections. The reasons given all sound very nice, such as, 'empowering service users' or 'encouraging them to be responsible' and 'this is a vital step on the road to recovery.'
All these sound very good and of course are important. But when you compare having one nurse who can see five or six patients in an hour to a nurse going out and sitting in each person's home for an hour, the maths becomes very clear!
I am constantly battling the dreaded discharge. I always have to point out that the reason my partner is doing so well is that he has lots of support and taking it away will be detrimental to his recovery .
In the community, we have had a day service for years that has offered many opportunities for education and enjoyment such as computing, art and cooking.
My partner has had a lot of use out of this service. He has undertaken a maths course, obtained a qualification in farming and agriculture as well as making some much needed friends in a rambling group.
These things have given him so much confidence and a reason to get up on the days he goes there. As his carer it also gives me much needed space and gives us something to talk about, which improves our relationship.
This vital day service which was run by the council is to be closed in March. This has been done with no real consultation. I spoke to another carer who attended a meeting and said that the service users found it very difficult to put their views across and were not listened to.
In conversations on social media I was informed that there was little 'appetite' for a fightback from the staff and non-existent union leadership. When I hear words like these it makes me very angry.
I can see how much of benefit a full and supportive mental health service is. Giving someone with mental illness the chance to participate in the same things as so-called 'normal' people is extremely important for their confidence and wellbeing. These attacks on services that are vital to a section of society who can find it difficult to articulate their feelings and needs are disgraceful.
As a carer, I am expected to 'pick up the slack' when all these services disappear. Carers provide millions of pounds every year in unpaid work.
So I ask all those in unions in this field of work and beyond - please, please demand that your union implements a fight before it is too late and before this crisis becomes a catastrophe!
The Socialist Party calls for:
- Reinvestment in social and mental health work - to allow genuine social work with manageable caseloads, to protect and assist those who require support
- Councillors who refuse to implement cuts. Support the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) local election challenge
- No cuts to Personal Independence Payments or any other benefits
- Abolish the Health and Social Care Act - no cuts, closures or privatisation
- Scrap the Private Finance Initiative and cancel the debt
- Coordinated action by trade unions as a step towards a 24-hour general strike against austerity and to defend all jobs and services
- Nationalise pharmaceutical companies and all private health providers
In The Socialist 23 March 2016:
What we think
Socialist Party annual congress
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist readers' comments