Charity warns of “untold damage” from cuts as it pulls out of Aberdeenshire

Astrid Whyte, Chief Executive of Mental Health Aberdeen
Astrid Whyte, Chief Executive of Mental Health Aberdeen

A mental health charity will no longer provide care in Aberdeenshire and have said that the Council’s new proposals will do “untold damage”.

Mental Health Aberdeen(MHA) will close all it’s services in Aberdeenshire due to the Council’s new redesigned service provision which will ask services to run with a 26% decrease in budget.

MHA currently provide services across Aberdeenshire including Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Ellon, Inverurie, Banchory and Aboyne.

Astrid Whyte, chief executive of MHA, said: “We are saddened and disappointed that this decision has had to be made.

“It has not been taken lightly but we cannot in good faith go forward due to the number of concerns we have with the changes due to be made to the way mental health care is provided across Aberdeenshire.”

The charity says that they would not be able to meet increased demands on staff while their budget was being cut and they would also not be able to ensure the safety of their staff, volunteers or service users.

MHA has also raised concerns over the eligibility criteria in the Council’s new provisions with support only offered to those suffering from moderate to sever mental health issues.

Ms Whyte said: ““We find it deeply concerning that under the criteria set out by the council those deemed outwith the moderate to severe brackets would be signposted elsewhere.

“This is, in our view, a worrying way to categorise those who are in need of support for mental health recovery.”

A spokesperson for Aberdeenshire Council said that they: “Invited organisations to tender to provide equitable services in North, Central and South Aberdeenshire, supporting those recovering from mental illness and helping them to participate in ordinary mainstream social, leisure, educational, and cultural activities alongside other members of the community.

“Part of the service requirement will be to work with Aberdeenshire Council and partners to reduce stigma around mental health and promoting local events and activities that support recovery. We also want to provide a counselling service which people can be referred to.”

MHA is currently in consultation with its service users and 26 staff who will be made redundant as a result of the impending shutting down of the service in Aberdeenshire.

The charity’s current contract with Aberdeenshire Council runs out on December 31 with the proposed new service to be in place on January 1 2017.

Ms Whyte said: “It is our belief that untold damage will be done to mental health support services in Aberdeenshire if this proposed service goes ahead and we would urge the council to reconsider.

“If there were to be a change in circumstances as well as an ability to discuss this type of mental health provision further, MHA would be pleased to engage further in the tender process.”

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “Following a successful tendering exercise it is envisaged the new services will start on January 1 2017.”