Jane Wilson, mental health worker and Unison steward, speaks to Katie Gibbons.
Child mental health services are experiencing a budget reduction of nearly a quarter – a combination of cuts by the local authority and the NHS. This is going to have an immediate and significant impact on many local children reliant on this care.
It’s going to have a harmful effect on the lives of children in state care homes, young offenders, young refugees and asylum seekers and ordinary school children.
Pressures on the surviving departments are going to get higher and waiting lists will get unmanageably longer. And it is all happening at the same time that the government has launched a new strategy that emphasises the importance of child mental health services.
One in five children in Lewisham live below the poverty-line and many families are forced to exist in a heightened state of financial pressure and stress. The current mental healthcare in the borough is a good working model; we provide a comprehensive service that is extremely important to these families.
Young people in Lewisham are suffering badly throughout the cuts process; they’ve already lost the Connexions service, libraries are closing and youth services are being reduced.
Lewisham is a borough with high levels of deprivation and yet we are at the sharp end of the cuts, which is a result of decisions made by the central government.
It is important to emphasie that the cuts affect everyone. It is not just child mental health services that are being damaged; the negative effect of these cuts ripple across all public services, and everyone in the country will experience them in one way or another.
Today we spoke out and asked the local authority and Mayor Steve Bullock not to let the cuts to vital frontline services pass. We asked him to join us and protect our local services; that is what the people of Lewisham voted for and that is what they would like to see happen.
We are angry with the government because they say one thing and do something completely different. We want to draw attention to what is happening in the borough, as these cuts should not be passed unnoticed.
The turnout of today’s lively protest was excellent. We had people from a variety of community groups; pensioners, children, students and health workers joined together to defend their local services. There was even a local choir there to support us with their song.”