A senior support officer from a respite house in Liskeard is ‘heartbroken’ that funding cuts will force the facility to close. Jackie Mayers, who has worked for the Sanctuary Project in Menheniot for over 15 years, says that the non-clinical service has seen a ‘wonderful’ evolution over time:

“Many of our guests have, over a period of time, grown to trust us enough to share some of the most awful details of their lives. It’s humbling.”

The director, Annette Hodges, of the project which is part of the Re-Gain Community Interest Company for mental health in Cornwall, was told in a meeting before Christmas that NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group and Cornwall Council would cease the contract on 31 March 2019.

it is the only pre-crisis respite house in Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly

Based at Oakleigh House, it is the only pre-crisis respite house in Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly and provides five rooms at a time for guests to visit for holistic care. With the annual cost of the project being less than £150,000 per year, Jackie felt the decision seemed “extremely short sighted.”

She expressed that the news came “as a shock to many” with guests only hearing the announcement when they came in for respite, as Community Mental Health Teams were advised to not tell service users, to minimise the risk of people going into crisis.

The respite closure is just another set back for mental health services in Cornwall Source: shutterstock

In line with the plans set out in the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health followed by NHS Kernow, it has been understood that the funding will be diverted into areas such as crisis management. A spokesperson explained to Truthfal that this will, “provide improved access and care to a greater number of people across our communities.”

In reaction to a prior statement publicised this week by NHS Kernow, many former residents of Oakleigh House called into the Laurence Reed show on BBC Radio Cornwall. This exposed the story to the local community, who were troubled by the news and their decision to invest in less preventative services in the region.

Oakleigh House was a life line that had prevented them from suicide

The presenter, moved by stories from listeners claiming that Oakleigh House was a life line that had prevented them from suicide, and reflecting on the handling of the situation by numerous bodies involved, stated he was “so sick and fed up with it, there’s just such of an appalling lack of communication.”

However, a spokesperson from NHS Kernow claimed, “When any service closes, NHS Kernow will ensure that all relevant parties are provided with information about the changes including councillors, MPs and other services that the closure may have an impact upon.”

They explained that there were no other plans right now to disinvest in any other mental health services and that they had invested £1.9 million to establish a new 12-bedded ‘rehabilitation and step-down unit’ to meet people’s needs locally.

Any guest that had a planned stay at the Sanctuary Project after the end of February will have this cancelled.