Inspirational local organisations hit by austerity #ActivistsforAction

Austerity measures have taken their toll on public services – especially in mental health provision – but what is it really like on the frontline? Meet representatives from Stroke Association North East, Children North East, Action on Dementia and Changing Lives who spoke to SOS about the current mental health crisis.

Nicole signifies how strokes can affect any age and says:

“Risk factors such as: being overweight, smoking and increased alcohol intake can increase the risk of a stroke.

“Depression, communication and social difficulties can also restrict a stroke survivor. However, our community integration team helps to develop confidence and make people feel more ‘normal’.”

Nicole’s team manages local peer support and activity groups for stroke survivors. Her team relies on fundraising events and charitable donations from celebrity ambassadors; but they are finding it increasingly difficult to raise enough funds annually and grow services.

Stroke Association work closely with the NHS, Nicole states:

“There is not a day that goes by where we don’t contact the NHS and local hospitals. Good communication improves our service which in turn makes service users feel supported.”

The infographic below describes ten ways how the Stroke Association works together with the NHS and stroke survivors in their day-to-day role:

Similarly, Catrin Patterson, school research delivery practitioner and Pauline Holt, communications and marketing coordinator at Children North East (CNE) both highlight that mental health affects all ages but in particular, children.

Research from CNE states that there is a higher than average rate of child poverty in the North East; and this affects a child’s education.

CNE is a charity based at Denhill Park in Newcastle that offers support to children and young people in order for children to grow and develop for a brighter future.

Through community based projects CNE provide funding to those in the region who are experiencing a range of problems and difficulties in their lives.

Information from Children North East 2017-18 annual report | Photo credit: Pauline Holt from CNE.

Catrin, who specialises in school research explains that:

“A third of all children are growing up in poverty. Children have barriers before they arrive at school (as well as during school time) and children find this hard to handle; but there are mental health projects such as the “Be You project” that we manage to help support children.

“This project looks at early intervention with Key Stage two and three students and works closely with members of staff to help them identify what young students would benefit from. The work is centred around understanding emotions, self image, communication, friendship and what good mental health looks like.”

Catrin Patterson, school research delivery practitioner at CNE.

Sheelagh expressed her views on dementia and talked to SOS about how it affects different people on different levels:

“Vascular and Alzheimers dementia presents itself as two different diseases. It is a question of accepting the fact that memory loss is a common symptom, but that some people also have problems with communication, disorientation, mobility and coordination. It is a very individual disease.”

Ernie Thompson, chairman of the charity thinks loneliness and isolation is a big factor that affects dementia. Ernie talks about how dementia affected him when he cared for his Mother.

He believes that individuals who act as carers alone at home are affected more than a family unit and adds:

“Certainly at the early stages of diagnosis, carers can put on a facadé of normality. Some families don’t understand how bad it can be.”

Sheilagh supports Ernie’s feelings on his personal situation and says:

“There is always one person who may live locally who resumes a sense of ‘responsibility’. Other members of the family seem to withdraw from the situation and the main carer gets ‘left’ to deal with everything.

“Because the family are not with the person all of the time, they only see a snapshot of what is going on over a 24 hour period.”

James Ward, area manager for Changing Lives believes that local authorities will be hit by more austerity in the future and comments:

“The North East is known for having one of the lowest business rates in the country. Many commissioners are under pressure to save money.

“Annual contracts are being reduced. We need to work closer with local authorities to maintain a sustainable level of funding.”

James thinks that the central government need to put “sustainable and long term plans” in place. He thinks that the government should view life avenues as “human rights”.

James also believes that there is still stigma surrounding mental health and says:

“Mental health still isn’t talked about in society or within the family unit. Media portrayal is still derogatory towards people that are struggling with their mental wellbeing.

“I believe that it is about how we look at things. We all have our own mental health. More public mental health campaigns are needed. They are just as important as physical health campaigns.”

It could be argued that regardless of the size of an organisation and how funding is received; with further austerity cuts, local organisations will struggle to adequately run their important local services.

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