Mental health service changes are ‘devastating’

Karen Hierons
Karen Hierons

A WOMAN has spoken of her devastation over plans to change a support service in town for people suffering from mental health problems.

Karen Hierons, 50, of Bexleigh Avenue, St Leonards, said Activ8, based in Trinity Street, is looking for a new building in which to base its services because funding had run out.

The service runs complementary therapies and support groups for its users in 1066 Country.

Karen said: “It’s devastating and leaving everyone who had a lovely support network that they could count on during the week with nothing.

“It’s already having a detrimental effect on people, whom some have given up attending groups.

“Two years ago I was introduced to Activ8 which runs art, photography, jewellery making, as well as games evenings and support groups. I started attending the pottery class and it quite literally changed my life.

“Prior to this I was almost agoraphobic almost never went out unless to walk my dog and my life was very lonely and isolated.”

She said Activ8 is to become Hastings Recovery College where activities will be offered for up to a 12-week period. Other groups such as art and jewellery making will continue in hired rooms in St Leonards. But other groups, she said, such as the pottery and photography are being axed.

Karen added: “Hastings will effectively be left with nowhere for people who need this support to go and nothing for us to do. The effect will be a deterioration in our wellbeing, putting more pressure on healthcare resources.”

Su Barnicoat, development manager of Activ8, said the current lease on the organisation’s base in Trinity Street comes to an end in July.

A spokesman for NHS East Sussex Commissioners Unit said: “Activ8 delivered provision funded by the NHS in East Sussex which encouraged and supported service user involvement and engagement in the Hastings area. “As well as this Activ8 developed group sessions such as art and pottery groups but delivered those initiatives using its own funding streams.

“There are newly commissioned services, commissioned by NHS East Sussex Commissioners Unit on behalf of ESCC and the local NHS across the Hastings area, in place since October One of these services is known as a Community Wellbeing centre whose function is to support community participation and help people access interest groups and activities while they move towards their recovery.

“Activ8 did apply for grant funding in this last round of commissioning to deliver wellbeing centres but the grant was awarded to another voluntary sector provider.

“It has decided to redevelop its services and is working towards becoming a recovery college. NHS commissioners have agreed development funding for this.

“As Activ8 redevelops it service provision some of the individuals who have accessed services are understandably anxious about changes and it provides networking events during June to ensure people are linked with alternative local provision and aware of thervices available.”