Anger as mental health group has its budget cut back by the council

10/2/2012 (JN) ''Portsmouth Interaction a group which helps mentally ill people get out and about are facing cuts being made to the service.''Pictured is: Members of the group (back l-r) Paul Huins, Karen Day, David Hatherley, Bill Furlong and Michael Cawsey with (front l-r) Michael Sprake, Keith Quinell, Donna Vicars, Sadie and Carolyn Leung.''Picture: Sarah Standing (120499-6025)
10/2/2012 (JN) ''Portsmouth Interaction a group which helps mentally ill people get out and about are facing cuts being made to the service.''Pictured is: Members of the group (back l-r) Paul Huins, Karen Day, David Hatherley, Bill Furlong and Michael Cawsey with (front l-r) Michael Sprake, Keith Quinell, Donna Vicars, Sadie and Carolyn Leung.''Picture: Sarah Standing (120499-6025)

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MEMBERS of a group for people with mental health problems are angry after some of their activities were cut by the council.

Portsmouth Interaction is a service which allows people with long-term mental difficulties to meet up and take part in a range of pursuits such as horse riding, swimming and bowling.

It provides trips to local attractions and towns in a minibus and organises community sessions so group members can socialise together.

And following a consultation – and a reduction in the funding available for the scheme – managers now want to promote more contact with the wider community.

But the announcement that some of the group’s favourite activities, including minibus trips and horse riding, are being axed has led to concerns from users of the service that it could soon be under threat.

Paul Huins, 65, said: ‘We feel that Interaction is providing an excellent service.

‘We have to accept that there are going to be cuts, but the real worry is what happens in 12 months?

‘Moving things into the wider community sounds good in theory, but a lot of us are very vulnerable people who just don’t have what it takes. At the moment this is a very safe, secure space.’

Karen Day, 35, said when she heard about the changes she became very worried and anxious.

She said: ‘I don’t want to be pushed into doing things if I don’t feel ready.

‘This place means a lot to us and we don’t want it to change. We’re like a family and we look after each other.’

Keith Quinell, 56, added: ‘Funding this scheme properly makes good financial sense as well, because it helps keep people out of St James’s.’

The group, which is paid for by a joint Portsmouth City Council and NHS body, is set to lose more than £28,000 because of changes to how such services are provided. A further £8,500 will be lost because of a reduction in the budget for sport and leisure.

Community projects officer Chris Richards said: ‘From April 1, the interaction service will offer a slightly reduced range of activities.

‘Like all public services, we’re under pressure to save money. But the main reason for the changes is a review of the service, guided by people who use it.

‘We want to focus on our core aims of encouraging people to take exercise and to take part in mainstream activities in the local community.

‘We appreciate that some may be disappointed by these changes, and are sorry for this. However, the service will continue to offer most of the current activities.’

Changes to how mental health services are provided in Portsmouth mean that after a tender process one body will then be commissioned to run all of them, which has also led to funding cuts for Portsmouth Mind and Port of Call.