Editorial: The Forgotten People
When folk think of forgotten people their first thought is often the native Indians of our American neighbour, (you know the one we keep those Trident missiles for) Yet I am referring to a different group of people all together more near to home. Namely the long- term mentally ill.
In Inverness and Glasgow we have seen some of our larger communities uprooted, deprived of funds and building spaces. I know less of the circumstances in Inverness but as Graham Morgan of HUG (Highland Users Group) said “The closure of it (Cairdeas Cottage)will mean that many, many people will no longer have that service and in their words will have nowhere else to go.”
In Glasgow we have seen the closure of the Charlie Reid Centre which was a flagship service for the Support in Mind Scotland, it was run “by the people for the people” as Sandra White SNP msp noted at our meeting with her to help stop the closure. She said she would seek a seminar at the Parliament but we heard nothing from her. I attended a forum run by the Glasgow Trades Council where I asked the question. What happened to the risk assessment report legally due by the Council to report to the public at large. She said something to the effect that the membership did not want to take part in such a report. This was news to me and I don’t know what evidence she was using to
assert such a blatant contradiction to the commitment of our membership to keep the centre open.
Still the question seems to have been lain to rest by the powers to be.
One of the problems is that that much of the Scottish government’s focus has been on “recovery”. It has less meaning for the long-term mentally ill, for whom one good day a week can be seen as a miracle after months of torment or anguish. This focus is counterproductive for the long term mentally ill and puts them under undue pressure to conform with market needs over personal needs.
People that would find it very difficult to hold down a job or impossible don’t need that kind of pressure in an area where suicide is high risk.
Another thing I have noticed this time about consultations with the mentally ill through their organisations is that the government funded agencies is that these meetings tend to attract those have firmly fixed to established bodies for years and tend to comply to the funding requirements of such bodies, those who actually need the services have a difficult enough time finding safe social spaces,( which incidentally, Raymond Bell a former head of Glasgow Social work department implied the pub was such a place,)
The roll out of Self Directed Support was a shambles in Glasgow, against the Scottish government’s wishes according to Michael Matheson then Minister of Public health, Glasgow’s then labour run council introduced service charges that were in line with the whole of the care component of high rate DLA. This was outrageous and put services in the financial dock. Instead of services being free at the point of delivery, it became a competition for money. This alienated over a hundred of our membership, many of whom we heard ended up in hospital or jail.
At present the remnants of our community is seeking help from the newly run SNP/Green council, even though we are at square one or two of this game of snakes and ladders, where the ladders have been previously systematically kicked from us . Our new group Glasgow Minds is hopeful that current reports such as Audit Scotland’s which is critical of SDS helps to focus the minds of our politicians on this national disgrace that neo-liberalism has brought to our doors.