|Lee Jasper: highlighting hurdles facing Black mental health voluntary sector
The African and Caribbean Mental Health Commission report, launched last Friday in London's City Hall, concluded that despite an inquiry into the death of David 'Rocky' Bennett little has changed.
The 100-page report called for more funding for specialist services dedicated to helping Black patients recover.
African Caribbeans are still six more likely to be locked up under mental health laws, forcibly restrained and over medicated than white patients. Black people are also more likely to be denied early intervention such as therapy.
Highlighting the failure of the National Health Service, the report found that Black and ethnic minority voluntary groups were filling the mental health care gap by providing the frontline support and care.
Lee Jasper, race advisor to London Mayor Ken Livingstone, said: “The black voluntary sector face low funding, high hurdles and high level of expectations of the service that is expected to deliver on a very narrow funding scheme.”
The report also highlighted the importance of employing black staff who understand the unique cultural and social experience of African Caribbean.
Co-author of the report and Director of the 1990 Trust Karen Chouhan said: “The funding chasm exposed in this report needs to be addressed.
“This blueprint calls for funders to wake up to the fact the only way to make the positive impact needed to bridge the gap between appropriate services, and the rising demand for culturally appropriate mental health care, is by putting their money where their mouth is.”
The report shows how the lack of long term funding adversely affected the sustainability and growth of the voluntary sector.
Voluntary sector organisations should have better support and be recognised as equal partners in the delivery of mental care by the Department of Health.
Sandra Young, acting manger of Merton Oasis, said: “We need more funding, more social workers to support the work we do.”
Too often funding is sporadic and inadequate, making it impossible to develop long term plans and strategies to keep black people out of the already overcrowded mental hospitals.
The report found that the services provided by voluntary and community sector were considerably more cost effective than the health service. The cost of inpatient psychiatric care up to £235 per day compared to £28 per day from Black led voluntary / non-profit day care.
Other recommendations include the setting up of a Mental Health Providers Information Exchange database so that information and support can be exchanged between clients, voluntary and mandatory sector.
Speaking at the report's launch Professor David Sallah, director of the government's mental health strategy, said: “I want to improve access to services in the community and to work with community groups.
“I aim to change and improve the experience of people when they encounter mental health services and finally to enable people to say I feel better when I come out of the experience.”
But Juliana Frederick assistant director at ISIS in South London, had heard it all before: “There can be hundreds of reports but things have got to change. Between 90 and 100 people a week pass through the doors my centre and we need more funding, support and state recognition to cope.”