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‘We may need a helping hand, but we exist, and we matter’

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: April 10, 2014

  • 08/04/14 Cuts piece on Swad charity - Hill Street, Swadlincote piece about cuts to floating support for people with mental health in Swadlincote at P3

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ON April 25, a group of people will march through Swadlincote in a bid to make their voices heard over cuts which could change their lives forever.

Each one of the protesters will have their own reasons for trying to stop the cuts to P3 Housing, but they have one thing in common – they would not be where they are now if it had not been for that organisation.

Yet P3 is one of a number of charities which are at real risk of having to withdraw services, if budget-slashing proposals are approved by Derbyshire County Council.

“If the cuts go ahead, it’s going to mean homelessness. People with mental health problems will struggle with their tenancies, and eventually, they will become homeless.

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“It isn’t just individuals, it’s families as well,” said Liz Price, who manages P3 Housing.

The charity, based in Hill Street, Swadlincote, provides support for people who are struggling to deal with their homes for various reasons.

It provides houses for those who need them, offers hostel support for others, and helps some people to remain in their own homes.

But the help that Miss Price and her team provide does not begin and end by helping organise the bills, as Trevor Brum told the Mail.

He left his job after developing severe depression when caring for his mother and then lost his home.

He said: “I struggled to find a reason to live. I was living in a caravan which was derelict. I was referred to P3 by the CVS, but if I had not been, I would have been homeless.

“I used to have a life, like we all did, but if you get on that slippery slope it’s hard to get back up without help,” he said.

Mick Smith, 66, went from having everything to losing his home, his job – and his family. After sleeping rough for some time, he eventually got a flat through the council, which is when P3 stepped in to help.

He said: “I was led to see what was generally the right direction. They gave me my life back, but they also gave me my character back.

“I’m pretty certain I would have committed suicide if I had not had that help.”

Angela, who asked for her surname not to be printed, was in a similar state of desperation when she accessed help from P3.

She was left with nothing after suffering a complete mental breakdown, but after accessing help, she is getting back on track, with support in her own home.

“I dread to think what would have happened if I had not got help. I would have lost my home. I would be talking to you from up there, or in a prison cell,” she added.

Nods of agreement went around the table when she said the problem came from the fact that those who hold the purse strings simply do not understand the issues which can stem from mental health problems.

“If we had a plaster on our heads, maybe it would be different, because they could see something was wrong, but they don’t understand, and they think we can just snap out of it,” Angela said.

The county council – which is the sole funding provider for P3 – is hoping to save £9 million by reducing its support.

The amount would be catastrophic for P3, Miss Price said.

“We have a moral and social duty to look after those most vulnerable in society, no matter what, and it’s heartbreaking to think they are being hit by this. The human cost will be terrible,” she added.

Questions over where support could come from if support is withdrawn are yet to be answered,

But there is some hope for Miss Price and the people she helps, if the protest at the end of the month has the desired effect.

Protesters will walk into Swadlincote – hopefully led by a band – before taking part in a ‘flash-freeze for two minutes.

“It will be symbolic of the fact we are not invisible, but we may as well be. We may need a helping hand, but we exist, and we matter,” Miss Price said.

DERBYSHIRE County Council is faced with making £157 million cuts by 2018 – and services are being slashed as a result.

Reducing housing-related support such as that which P3 provides is just one of a raft of cuts which have been proposed.

It makes up the vast majority of cuts to adult social care, which is facing a loss of almost £12 million to its budget.

Miss Price has made it clear she does not blame the county council for the cuts, rather putting it at the feet of the current Government, which has reduced funding for local authorities significantly in the past couple of years.

Both she, and those who use the services she provides, put it down to a complete lack of appreciation for the situations faced by the most vulnerable people in society.

“They don’t see it and they don’t understand. Mental health is a massive umbrella and they put everything under that. They think it’s our fault and we should get out of it.

“They don’t understand it and they are making it more and more difficult for sufferers,” service-user Angela told the Mail.

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