Founder’s sadness at closure of groundbreaking women’s mental health centre

The Ashcroft Centre in Wicklewood. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

The Ashcroft Centre in Wicklewood. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN - Credit: Sonya Duncan

A social worker who helped to start a groundbreaking Norfolk mental health centre for women has told of her concern and sadness at its planned closure.

Retired social worker Cynthia Robinson is one of the three original founders of the Ashcroft Centre in Wymondham, which is due to close after more than 30 years of helping women with mental ill health.

This centre was threatened with closure in 2014 and this newspaper supported a campaign to keep it open.

However, the battle has now been lost, with the centre due to close in March 2018.

Mrs Robinson said the closure paints a bleak future for the future of mental health care in the region.

She said: 'I'm very sad because I think that it was doing enormously important work which will be lost at a time when the mental health services are under great strain anyway.

'There needs to be a clear understanding that a firm bridge between hospital and independent life is needed for people with severe and enduring mental health problems. Otherwise, you end up with a sad circular pattern of patients going from hospital to home and back.

'That is what Ashcroft offered at its height. The centre has been steadily eroded but that was its core aim - and it's an aim that is as valid today as ever.'

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Mrs Robinson said she was not surprised the fight to keep the centre open had finally ceased.

She said: 'I think people have just exhausted themselves really. Over the whole 30 years it has been a battle to sustain the funding.

'On the one hand hospital psychiatrists come to us, saying they have patients who can't leave hospital unless they can come to the centre because of the level of safety and rehabilitation we offer. Meanwhile, the social care people say they can't afford to pay the amounts needed to offer the rehabilitation.'

Mrs Robinson also raised concerns regarding the future of the centre after its closure.

She said: 'What does worry me is that when we were first under development, everything was paid for using grants and donations, and I imagine now it is being sold for asset stripping purposes.'

In a joint statement, Norfolk County Council and South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group said they were introducing a 'more progressive model' of adult social services-funded mental health care from March.

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