An Aberdeen charity today told of its disappointed after funding was axed for two of its “critical” mental health services.
Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership (ACHSCP) has withdrawn funding for VSA’s Mental Wellbeing Reconnect Service and Airyhall Day Care and Weekend Respite Service.
The Airyhall service looks after people with mental or physical illness so their unpaid carers can have free time, while the Reconnect service offers peer support service for people living with a mental health condition.
VSA said the removal of funding for these services will put more pressure on the NHS and social care.
Aberdeen MSP Kevin Stewart called the decision “extremely disappointing” and has urged the ACHSCP to rethink its decision.
A spokeswoman for VSA said: “Naturally, we are disappointed at the decision to withdraw funding for our Mental Wellbeing Reconnect Service and our Airyhall Day Care and Weekend Respite Service.
“Both services effectively keep people living with a mental health condition out of the hospital and people caring for someone living with dementia from reaching crisis point.
“One in three people living in Scotland will be diagnosed with a mental health condition at some point in their lives; sadly, the demand for mental health support as a result of the pandemic is soaring and help will be needed for many years to come.
“Our reconnect group provides a vital peer support service for people living with a mental health condition. The group supports a person’s emotional, social and mental wellbeing and helps people to rebuild their confidence while and significantly reduces social isolation.
“Over the years we have provided this service we have successfully helped hundreds of people reintegrate into society, build lasting friendships, and empowered them to take control of their journey to recovery.
“Undoubtedly, the past 12 months have been the most challenging year we can recall in our history, and for unpaid carers, the additional pressures placed upon them because of the ongoing pandemic has been immense.
“We adapted our Airyhall service back in March to ensure we were there with the people of Aberdeen every step of the way; whether that was providing unpaid carers with toolkits to help build personal resilience, mental wellbeing support, social support virtually, or just a friendly ear to listen at the other end of the phone.
“Airyhall provided a vital carers respite service, and we know that many carers who are caring for someone living with dementia or Alzheimers will be disappointed to learn that Airyhall will no longer be there.
“At VSA, we recognise that our Airyhall service is critical to people in an unpaid caring role as it enables them to continue caring for their loved one at home without reaching crisis point.
“If a carer or someone living with a mental health condition reaches crisis point, this would mean intervention from the NHS and Social Care.
“Since 1870 we have continually evolved our services to meet the local need of the community, but always with one ambition; to give vulnerable people living in the North East of Scotland the best of care to enable them to live the best of lives.
“We hope to work in partnership with the local H&SCP to bring new innovative services that is aligned to significant changes in social care services across the region.”
A spokesman for the ACHSCP spokesman said the aim of the review of services was to open up “more choice and opportunities”.
He said: “The Partnership has set up a multi-agency group to look at a broader and more inclusive provision of day care and activity services and short-break respite across Aberdeen as part of our strategic review, with the aim of opening up more choice and opportunities.
“We are committed to making sure that our services are flexible, effective and safe for those who have the greatest need as we continue to adapt to living with Covid-19, which has made building-based daycare challenging.
“We are working hard with our teams in our localities to identify those people who are at risk of losing their resilience and create wider opportunities to link up with what is available in the community. We will also continue to make available overnight respite, short breaks and one-to-one support for those who need those services.”
Kevin Stewart, MSP for Aberdeen Central, said: “This is an extremely disappointing decision and I’ve written to the authorities around the reasoning behind this cut – VSA is a charity I know well and the work they do is second to none in terms of supporting vulnerable people across the city.
“We are in the midst of a pandemic where social isolation is a huge factor so we urgently need the powers that be to review this decision to ensure that VSA can continue in the vital work that they do.”