Locals take to the streets in Lewisham to protest against cuts to child mental health services

Photo: Jacquie Owen

A large crowd gathered outside the Kaleidoscope Centre in Catford yesterday to protest against drastic cuts to local mental health services.

The rally, organised by Lewisham Unison and Lewisham Unite, was in reaction to a confirmed cut in funding of £500,000 for child and adolescent mental health services this year.

“This is an essential service that has been commended in various government inspections,” said a Unison spokesman. “A number of longstanding and very experienced staff will have to leave the service.”

Accompanied by a ‘protest choir’, almost 100 protesters sang and chanted against the reduction of what Unison officials estimate to be 25 per cent of Lewisham’s mental healthcare for the young.

There were several speeches by union members and NHS workers about  the threat of a privatised healthcare system and the responsibility that Lewisham Mayor, Steve Bullock has in protecting frontline services. One local GP addressed the mixed crowd of retired GPs, mental health workers and local parents saying: “We can’t keep universal health service with 25 per cent cuts.”

“People are worried that Lewisham Hospital is going to be run like a big business,” said Jacquie Owen a psychiatrist at the Maudsley Hospital and Lewisham resident. “These cuts have a knock-on effect to so many local services – even things like sports in schools will suffer.”

Not only will this result in fewer frontline workers and major redundancies, but there will also be much longer waiting lists for vulnerable, local children.

These plans come just months after the government launched its “No Health Without Mental Health” campaign. The strategy promised to protect local frontline healthcare, with a particular emphasis on the need for accessible child mental health services.

Local services that will be affected by these cuts include schools, child social workers, forensic services, care for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and children’s care homes.

The Lewisham Anti-Cuts alliance is urging local residents to sign a letter of petition and send it to the Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock and Caroline Hewitt, Chair of NHS Lewisham. They have already collected over 2,000 signatures.

There will be another rally against cuts to the NHS on May 17 outside the University College of London Hospital at 5.30pm.

Click here to read a Unison steward’s account of the day

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