Friday, 13 May 2011

How Can You Confront the Hydra ?

Having learned from bitter experience that the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and the Community Health Councils are as sincere and trustworthy as a Taliban peace negotiator, we service users need an alternative source of help.  If you have recently become ill, you will learn that there is a layer below the venemous statutory authorities that are ( unsurprisingly ) classed  as non-statutory bodies that were established - mostly as 'Charities' - all promising to provide sanctuary and help for the mentally ill, albeit at a price.  Membership is supposed to be free, but some discriminate against the more disturbed patients ( who may be subject to 'an episode' that might upset others, including the staff ). This is done by some so-called charitable groups by having the Trustees vet every application, before granting membership for a nominal sum ( eg £1 ). One of these where I used to be a Trustee even went to the extent of searching certain male sufferers for knives or other sharp objects, thereby instilling groundless fear into all service users, whilst posing as virtuous protectors of the vulnerable ( themselves, of course ).

These self-made 'drop-in' centres do, however, offer a place of temporary respite where patients may mix freely with fellow sufferers and, hopefully, form a self-help group that will eventually become confident enough to return to a normal life of useful employment. Help is provided by staff and a plethora of literature that can be obtained, at a price, as is the case with all refreshments and meals, which all runs contrary to the remit of a 'charitable' organisation.  Creating a mirage of sanctuary, these ( supposedly user-led ) charitable centres are funded by grants from; the Government, the Health Boards, Local Authorities, European Social Funds, and quangos such as the incompetent Wales Council for Voluntary Action.  Herein lies their greatest shortcoming, in that their first duty is to themselves - self-preservation and ( often ) Empire building - which places their loyalties to their fund providers first, with the mental health service user coming a distant second in priority.  This basic conflict of interest - applicable to all non-statutory bodies - results in their giving uncritical support for the majority of changes to mental health services, which have resulted in the depletion of services ( e.g. the loss of 422 inpatient beds since July 2002 - from the Trust's own published figures ).

All of these publicly-funded non-statutory bodies have sat on their thumbs, watching the systematic destruction of successful mental health Day and Inpatient units, in abject silence.  In truth, they are the dreaded Hydra - many 'heads' all joined to the same body, with one aim only-survival.  Millions of pounds ( in total ) are given to these so-called Charities, specifically for the help of the mentally ill, yet most of this money is spent on bricks and mortar, maintenance and service charges, as well as wages and expenses for staff.  Who monitors this waste of public funds ? - nobody.  You will find poor monitoring of funds, no government accountability, and worst of all - no punishment for the abusers, who unite impenetrably against any and all challengers.

So, in addition to having to deal with the nest of vipers and other ( equally repugnant ) reptilian statutory bodies, we must - somehow - confront and tame the Hydra that is the non-statutory bodies, unarmed and with only each other for support.

  [ Explanation ( from Robin ):  I have been asked to be more specific about the terms Statutory and non-statutory bodies as those readers, not involved with Mental Health Services, may not understand the distinction between the two.
Statutory Bodies are, basically , the Wales Government plus all subordinate organisations or Quangos that are accountable to them.  These include, NHS Wales, Cardiff & Vale University Health Board and other health Boards in Wales, Health Inspectorate Wales, the Ombudsman, the Wales Audit Office, Older people's Commission, All Local Authorities and Councils, the Community Health Councils and other similarly useless and untrustwothy bodies that the government and the NHS choose to use to ensure that the public and patients in Wales are properly 'managed' (e.g. The Wales Council for Volutnary Action ).  This involves keeping us all in total ignorance of their plans by not involving us - meaningfully, genuinely, sincerely, or at all - on any changes to our Health Services.  Their motto is "We Know What's Best for You, so shut up, don't bother us, and 'Keep taking the tablets'.

Non - statutary bodies are none of the above, although misunderstandings are easily made, when they all give uncritical support to their masters and other fund providers.  These organisations include such charitable, or quasi-charitable organisations such as Mind Cymru, Mind Cardiff, Mind in the Vale. The Four Winds in Cathays Terrace, Awetu in  Roath , Depression Alliance Wales, MDF - Bi-Polar Association, Hafal, and especially the principle organisation  that is used by the Health Boards as being 'representative' of the 6700+ service users in Cardiff and the Vale - The Cardiff and Vale Mental Health Project.  This particular organisation has a database of a 150 or so service users ( which hasn't grown in number in 13 years ), and they facilitate 'presentations' and agree with every 'proposal' put forward by  the health board without exception.  So, having revealed this last self-serving, 'friend' of the mentally ill, it is only fair to point out that, in my opinion, the finest of these bodies is Hafal, whose services to the acutely mentally ill ( and their carers ) are, without doubt, the best in Wales. However, sadly - when 'push comes to shove' - they will not openly contradict their paymasters.

If I've left anyone out, please write to me and set me straight.  Alternatively, you may choose to dismiss me out of hand as our government departments do whenever I have the temerity to challenge any policy/protocol/procedure that I feel is immoral and ( sometimes) illegal.]

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