Letters to the editor page heading

Bolton STEPS is a local charity based in the Victoria Hall, which has housed the organisation for more than 17 years since it was first set up. The main aim of the charity is to support local people with mental health issues back into employment. Recently, the Charity received the devastating news that Bolton CCG has taken the decision to decommission the service and will cease to fund it.

The CCG argues that supporting people back into work is not a health priority and suggested Bolton Council should pick up the funding for STEPS, indicating that the work comes more under their jurisdiction the understanding at STEPS is that the Council are not presently willing to do this which leaves the organisation facing closure unless alternate funding streams or a charity business partner can be found to keep it up and running.

This is a story of someone that STEPs has supported –

“While I was recovering in hospital after my breakdown 2 years ago , I decided that I wanted to one day work in mental health , and I found out about an opportunity at Bolton STEPs , I joined the team working as the Champion promoting Bolton’s Mental Health day services . I enjoyed working there and saw another opportunity for a support worker at STEPs and I was lucky enough to get it. I absolutely love it and my long term goal is be a full time mental health worker. STEPS are also helping me achieve that by sending me to college to study mental health. Thanks to STEPs I now have a dream that doesn’t seem impossible.”

Bolton STEPs has created employment for people with mental health issues via The Eden Cafe Project and the Fix-IT project. The income from the CCG represents only 38% of total expenditure of the project. The value added financial impact of the charity is the saving to the NHS by keeping people out of hospital and reducing the need to use many of the local community mental health services, in addition to saving the government money by supporting service users to get off benefits or onto greatly reduced benefits by supporting them into work.

The charity receives over 150 referrals each year and more than 70 people a week attend the charity, engaging in the support for around 16 weeks, often longer. Data suggests that on average the charity has supported 20 people each year back into meaningful employment. Considering the service users who access Bolton STEPS often have incredibly complex needs, support may start with building up self-esteem, confidence building, in-house training schemes and facilitating a supportive environment to aid recovery, it is easy to see that what is at risk here is much more than the sum of the people who get back into employment. The work of the charity is helping local people to re-engage, social isolation is a massive factor in poor mental health and the associated outcomes and just being able to bring structure into lives and give service users the confidence to leave home and actually catch the bus or make their way into the programme, connecting them with other people in a supportive environment and giving something positive to aim for and the confidence and skills to do it, is in itself another significant element of this service.

Bolton Steps urge the CCG to reconsider the decision and would welcome support from the public to lend some weight to challenge this decision and to urge the CCG and Bolton Council to engage in talks to try to identify the means to continue to fund this important little charity that does so much for so many for so little.

You can help save Bolton STEPS raise £15,000 from now until the end of November by Visiting http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/saveboltonsteps and make a donaton

Ruth Haigh
Manager
Bolton STEPs
http://www.boltonsteps.org

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