Newcastle MIND closed by

Newcastle could be left with a severe shortage of mental health
provision, the director of the local MIND warned as the association
begins the painful process of winding itself up (News, 1

Maureen Anderson, director of Newcastle MIND, accused the
funding authorities of abandoning the organisation without giving
an adequate explanation.

‘For an agency where there was absolutely no question of the
quality of the service, to pull funding half way through the year
is unheard of.’

In a statement, Jennifer Bernard, director of social services at
Newcastle, said that legal difficulties prevented her from
specifying what went wrong at the agency.

But Anderson said this was inadequate: ‘We want to see this out
in the open…we have not had an opportunity to state our

Newcastle MIND has had severe problems since major debts were
built up early last year following a period of expansion. Director
Chris Close was suspended and then resigned. Charged with taking
financial advantage by means of deception, Close was due to appear
in court, but the case was discontinued on orders from the Crown
Prosecution Service.

Newcastle MIND lost its affiliation to national MIND by failing
to meet criteria. These included lack of independently audited
accounts, the national office said.

There was a management change after Close left, and an effort to
turn the organisation round, but the main funders, Newcastle &
North Tyneside health authority and Newcastle social services, were
not convinced of financial controls and withdrew funding last

Services, principally day centres, drop-in services and home
support, were reduced towards the end of last year.

Further disaster struck in the New Year when the head office,
which accommodates a drop-in centre, suffered a burglary and

This caused the premature closure of the drop-in service, the
last unit to be open. The building is being repaired, and will be
sold to clear debts.

Anderson said the alternatives offered by Newcastle social
services of a day centre run by the Byker Bridge housing
association and the John Marley club were inadequate.

She said clients of the centres have been calling her, and other
former workers, on their home numbers. ‘They are saying “I don’t
know what to do with my time; there is no one to turn to”.

‘A lot of these people are invisible to the statutory sector:
they are not supported under a contract, but on a voluntary basis.
They cope extremely well with the sort of support we offer. Now
that has gone, it isn’t until they go into crisis that they are
picked up again.’

But the statutory agencies are adamant that continuing the
support of the local MIND would have been an inappropriate use of
public money.

Bernard’s statement said: ‘Statutory agencies cannot fund
organisations which they believe to be insolvent. We kept our help
in until the last possible moment.’

The statement promised that tendering processes for more day
care projects will begin. A spokesperson for the social services
department was not available last week.

Tim van Zwanenberg, director of commissioning at the Newcastle
& North Tyneside health authority, said the statutory agencies
had ‘bent over backwards’ to help Newcastle MIND resolve its

He acknowledged that the gap between MIND’s demise and setting
up new services created problems. But he denied that the
authorities had been slow in commissioning these. There could have
been contractual problems had contracts for identical services from
different suppliers overlapped. ‘Also, there are problems finding
the services which can actually do it.’

Pressure on the statutory authorities to justify their stance
will remain until these services are found. CLOSED: Newcastle
MIND’s head office will be sold to pay debtsMark PinderThe closure
of Newcastle MIND could mean a severe shortage of mental health

Philip Whiteley reports

More from Community Care

Comments are closed.