Letter: Community care needs real help

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Sir: I read your article 'Not much of a plan for Margot' (18 August), about the problems of the unfortunate woman trapped in a flat over two disturbed patients, with a sad sense of recognition.

My post today carries a bland reply from a social services department, which encapsulates exactly the difficulties that are being created by the new Care In The Community legislation. It talks about support for a similar case and says: 'We are supporting this person who has mental health needs and ongoing psychiatric treatment alongside the Health Service.' It nowhere answers any of the detailed questions raised by me on the problems of living next to such a person, nor does it offer any solutions.

I have no doubt of the difficulties faced by social work departments. However, the growth of problems for many neighbours means that elected members are continually seeking solutions to the management of psychiatric patients in a way that was formerly the responsibility of fully trained social workers.

Too many people are now 'dumped' into the community, unable to cope fully with the pressures put on them and inadequately supported by the very services that they should be able to rely on. Care In The Community was instigated as a cost-cutting measure enabling the Government to shut down hospitals and decant former patients without providing the extensive and expensive support systems required. The resultant cost to the people concerned and the communities in which they live is extremely high.

New guidelines on 'assessment' will do nothing to change this. It is simply gesture politics of the most irresponsible kind.

Yours faithfully,

GWYNETH DUNWOODY

MP for Crewe and Nantwich (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

19 August

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