Julian Support has issued the following powerful press release:
“Ashcroft is a CQC registered Residential Care Service for women in the village of Wicklewood, near the market town of Wymondham in Norfolk. It was established in 1986 to support women with severe and enduring mental health needs. Julian Support has been providing the service since 2012
The women who access Ashcroft come from very difficult circumstances. Many of them have a diagnosis of Personality Disorder and self-harm or use drugs and alcohol as a way of coping with their experiences. Most of the women have experienced periods of extreme crisis in their lives that have resulted in hospital admissions and they often speak of traumatic childhood experiences.
Ashcroft has been a place where they can feel safe, come to terms with some of their experiences, develop new strategies for coping and start planning to move towards independence. Some of the women use the service for respite and this is a lifeline that enables them to get a break from the pressure in their lives with staff on hand to support them.
Norfolk & Suffolk Mental Health Foundation Trust has commissioned a number of beds at Ashcroft to help the pressure on hospital beds. These beds are for women who are medically fit for discharge, but due to housing and social reasons are unable to go back home. Women are able to move on from hospital in a safe and timely way and the Ashcroft staff team are able to support them to manage the transition back into the community. This helps Norfolk & Suffolk Mental Health Foundation Trust to manage the pressure of out of county placements as it frees up beds in hospital.
We have a dedicated and skilled staff team who are passionate about the service that they deliver. They work in very challenging circumstances, conveying a huge amount of compassion and respect for the women that they support. Over the last few years the team has had to adapt to lots of changes and whilst this has been difficult, they have kept the needs of the women they support as their main priority.
The service works very closely with our statutory colleagues at Norfolk & Suffolk Mental Health Foundation Trust and within Norfolk County Council Adult Social Care departments.
Following a period of negotiation with Norfolk County Council commissioners, Julian Support was notified of the available funding to continue the contract for the service beyond April 2015. The funding was insufficient to deliver the service safely for either the staff or service users. It would have resulted in one member of staff being on site at any one time and this was simply unacceptable given the high level of need and risk taking behaviour of the people who access Ashcroft. The Julian Support Board of Trustees confirmed that they could not sanction this level of risk at a meeting on the 20th November 2014 and Commissioners were notified of the outcome the following day.
The closure of Ashcroft marks a very sad chapter in the provision of local mental health services in Norfolk and we are concerned for how vulnerable women will access the support that they so desperately need in future. The impact of the closure of Ashcroft will be felt widely and it will undoubtedly put pressure on already stretched community services. There is a real risk that this will lead to increased use of A&E departments and acute psychiatric services, which are inappropriate, financially costly and a backwards step in terms of someone’s on-going recovery. Emergency services should always be the last resort, but with the closure of Ashcroft we fear that they will become increasingly a first port of call.”