Lifeline for Brighter Futures service users as new 'wellbeing centres' to open

Two 'wellbeing centres' for vulnerable residents are being launched - to replace a vital long-running service due to be axed this week. Brighter Futures announced last month that its Clubhouse Network would close after 20 years of operation on June 21, along with two other mental health support services, with the organisation blaming uncertainty over future NHS funding.

Service users were left shocked by the news, saying that the Clubhouse Network - based at The Observatory in Hanley; The American in Cobridge; and at Meir Community Education Centre - had been a lifeline for them over the years, providing access to mental health support as well as social activities. They have now been told by the NHS that a replacement service will launch on Monday, June 24, in partnership with Changes, North Staffordshire Mind and the Coalfield Regeneration Trust.

The wellbeing centre service will run at the Dudson Centre, in Hope Street, Hanley, Monday to Friday, from 9.30am to 4pm. It will also be based at Meir Community Education Centre, in Pickford Place, Meir, on Thursdays, from 9.30am to 2.30pm.

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A letter to service users, which was sent out on Friday, states: "Wellbeing centres are designed to foster a sense of community and belonging. They will offer designated quiet areas, group and 1-2-1 spaces, and opportunities to connect with others who, through their lived experience of mental health recovery, can offer empathy, understanding, and encouragement.

"Wellbeing centres offer a range of meaningful activities, co-produced with service users, to promote recovery and wellbeing."

Activities offered at the centres will include art therapy and creative workshops, board games, music and drama, and organised outings.

Amy Edwards, from Abbey Hulton, who had been using the Clubhouse Network since just after Christmas, was delighted that a replacement service had been arranged.

She said: "It's amazing that these organisations have been able to come together to organise this. It just goes to show that there are people out there who really care. And it's in a perfect location in the city centre - it's on a bus route, there's lots of parking. They've listened to all the things we were asking for.

"It's still a shame about the staff at Brighter Futures who are losing their jobs. It's been a really uncertain period, which isn't good for people who are already struggling with their mental health. But this shows what can happen when people work together."

Brighter Futures also provides a mental health helpline and Safer Spaces, a referral service which aims to prevent patients being admitted to hospital. Both are also set to close on Friday.

The NHS is referring service users to a range of other mental health support helplines, run by national and local organisations.

Brighter Futures told service users last month that it would have to close the three services, as NHS funding was only guaranteed until the end of June, and it did not expect to receive any further support. Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Integrated Care Board, which commissions NHS services in the area, has been carrying out a review of mental health support provision since March, but bosses insist that no final decision has been taken over future funding.

The ICB was not able to comment due to pre-election purdah rules.

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