Outside of the box

I made a visit to the Arbours Crisis Centre in Crouch End this week. Clientsare referred here from all over the country, nay world.

Arbours is an establishment working in the mental health sphere which doesn’tfit – doesn’t fit into categories thatwould encourage the Government, Haringey Council or any specific body to fund it. And yet it does valuable work andhas a world-wide reputation.

I was ushered into a lounge with comfy sofas, tea laid out and agolden-coloured dog. The therapists and clients came and sat and talked tome about the place. I couldn’t tell who was who to start – which iscertainly a good sign of treatment working well!

It is modelled on being a house – or as near to a normal house as ispossible. Clients and therapists live together in the house. The days arefilled with individual or group work. The clients have keys and can comeand go at will.

Arbours concentrates on relationships – and clearly has highly devoted andcommitted therapists working to bring those who have had long malfunctionswith the world we know back into it – with some success. It can only takesix clients, maximum, at a time.

Being so outside the box of traditional mental health treatment approaches,funding is a struggle. And perhaps of even more concern is the Governmentbeing unable to treat them as a one-off. So many targets and programs andinitiatives and partnerships and jargon and more jargon – but when anexcellent project stares it in the face which doesn’t fit the bureaucraticboxes, the Government is so often like a rabbit stuck in headlights, frozenin action and not knowing what to do.

It’s a bit like Red Gables. This is a fantastic family centre also inCrouch End which Labour councillors want to close. The Government isfunding 18 new child centres in the borough – but because Red Gables is inthe ‘wrong’ area and doesn’t fit the criteria precisely – rather than makeRed Gables on of the eighteen and celebrate this exemplar facility, theyplan to close it down. Local campaigners (and the Ham & High) arefighting hard to prevent this happening.

Red Gables and Arbours seem to be two facets of the same problem – they aremuch loved and successful services, but they don’t fit thecentral Labour model of what should be done where and how – and so thefunding flows elsewhere.

I don’t (yet) know enough in detail about the Arbours Crisis Centre to besure of the right way forward, but with so many problems with the provisionof mental health facilities, it seems daft to not be supporting one likethis. The original idea of “care in the community” had many good points -getting rid of those Dickensian type near jail like facilities for peoplewho need treatment not gaol. But so often, the question now is, “where isthe care?”.

The reopening – thanks to two years of campaigners’ efforts, of Canning Crescent, one of the two mental health day care centres which Haringey closed is a step in the right direction but it opened being able to support far fewer residents than before.

When Parliament comes back in the autumn – and ministers are availableagain for questioning and prodding in the chamber, I want to pursue theseissues.

Quite a few mental health care professionals have come my way since theelection to alert me to the mayhem going on in this area and my five yearson the Metropolitan Police Authority demonstrated palpably how much thepolice are left to deal with the results when our care systems fail. Iwould welcome more input on this – so if anyone reading this has a tale totell in terms of good or poor treatment in this area, please contact me.