Social Exclusion Unit leads the way on revamp of day services

    Day services for people with mental health problems will be
    overhauled to include a range of provision such as access to
    employment opportunities, under proposals set out in a new report
    by the government’s Social Exclusion Unit.

    Measures to transform day services into “community resources” that
    will open up mainstream services are among 27 action points in the
    144-page document.

    It says that, although £140m is spent on day services, their
    activities often do not promote social inclusion and they should,
    for example, provide advocacy services to aid access to local
    provision in the future.

    The report, based on a consultation with 900 people and
    organisations including service users, charities and local
    authorities, finds that mental health users suffer discrimination
    in almost every sphere of life.

    In March, the government set aside £22m to fund the capital
    costs associated with the report’s anticipated recommendations.
    From this pot, every council with a social services department has
    received a baseline amount of £50,000 to implement the
    changes.

    A £1.1m campaign to tackle stigma, described in the report as
    “the single greatest barrier” to better integration of mental
    health service users in the community, was also announced by the
    Department of Health.

    Fewer than a quarter of people with a mental health problem have a
    job, and the low expectations health and social care professionals
    sometimes have of their clients can hamper their progress, says the
    report.

    Health minister Rosie Winterton said it was vital that people with
    mental health problems were supported to gain or retain employment
    and access education, advice on finances, legal rights and other
    community facilities and appropriate heath and social care
    services.

    Directors of social services and primary care trust chief
    executives will have lead responsibility for drawing up local
    action plans to implement the report, and will be expected to
    review commissioning practices to ensure voluntary and community
    sector input.

    Acting chief executive of the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health
    Angela Greatley said the report “must become a watershed in our
    history”.

    But Cliff Prior, chief executive of charity Rethink, said the
    report offered “no radical ways to improve the way the benefit
    system traps and discriminates against mental health users”.

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