Human rights activists support Hostel’s fights to keep Black mental health survivors out of the cold

Human rights activists support Hostel

Black Mental Health UK and the international human rights group, Imani Development, have come out in support of a specialist housing provider that is fighting to keep funders from pulling the plug on their services, which could leave their clients out in the cold.

The Medway Hostel in the West Midlands is seeking for an eleventh hour reprieve in order to keep its 10 bed hostel for black mental health survivors afloat.

The Hostel, which is run by Onmincare Community Services, have been locked in an ongoing dispute with the Supporting People division of social services, at Birmingham City Council over the continuing funding for the hostel.

The Council who are committed to shutting the place down, will effectively be terminating Medway Hostel’s 16 year track record of providing shelter and support to one of the city’s most groups disadvantaged groups.

The only service of its kind in the area, Medway Hostel offer accommodation to those with desperate cases, often after they have been turned away from other services.

‘Many people we have taken in are mental health survivors who have been turned away from quite a few other organisations before they get to us. We have clients here, who been discharged from hospital but have not been allocated a social worker. For many months a lot of our clients have been in need of medication and support, we have been managing this, and many other issues, even though we have not received a penny for their care since last November.

Social services have been contacted so that social workers could be allocated to our clients but we have not had a response. We really have no idea what will happen to the people here if we are forced to shut down,’ George Gordon, director of Omincare Community Services Ltd said.

Omnicare Community Services Ltd set up Medway Hostel in the 1980’s after it became clear that many mental health service users were falling through care gaps into destitution or getting trapped in the revolving door syndrome.

The only provider offering specialist care of this kind in the area, shutting their doors will have devastating consequences for hostel residents.

Based on the motto ‘Caring for our own’, the Meday Hostel has proved a refuge for large number of people in the 16 years that it has been opened. ‘The last thing we want to see are the most such vulnerable people potentially made homeless, especially in the middle of winter – I can’t think of anything more cruel.’ Gordon said.
In December, Health Minister Ivan Lewis stated the Government was committed to to ensuring mental health services are sensitive to the need of different black and minority ethnic communities, when findings for the Count Me In Census 2007 revealed that discrimination within the services continued to adversely impact on black patients.
‘Medway are providing exactly the kind of community based services the Government say are needed in order to see the over representation of African Caribbean’s in mental health services addressed. Intervening to help save Medway presents the perfect opportunity to show a commitment to a service that is actually working for people other services obviously do not want to touch,’ Matilda MacAttram, director of Black Mental Health UK said.

Omincare’s lawyers, Anthony Collins, have written to Pat Merrick the Contracts Manager at Birmingham City Council over their concerns that this decision to slash funding to this service could in fact be in breach of the Race Relations Amendment Act at the beginning of the year, but to date they have not been given an response, Omincare said.

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