Holsworthy link mental health centre looks set to close permanently

Holsworthy Link Centre

Holsworthy Link Centre - Credit: Google

Holsworthy’s link mental health centre will almost certainly close permanently following a review of services in North Devon. 

The decision is being recommended to Devon County Council’s ruling cabinet when it meets next week, but three other centres in the district are set to remain open. 

It follows a consultation on the future of the centres and wider mental health provision in the area, which found that only two per cent of people supported closure. 

The link service began in North Devon in 1992 and is unique to the area. It provides day services and drop-in sessions for 264 people, mostly aged between 41 to 65 in Barnstaple, Bideford, Holsworthy and Ilfracombe, helping to improve their confidence and wellbeing. 

However, the buildings closed at the start of the pandemic, with people receiving help mainly online and by telephone. The consultation looked to see if the £480,000 yearly budget could provide more flexible community services instead. 

A report to the council’s cabinet recommends the Holsworthy centre should remain closed and to move its once-weekly morning drop-in session to another venue in the town, while the other three reopen ‘as soon as it is deemed safe to do so under covid-19 guidelines’.

A sign posted on windows at Holsworthy Link Centre

A sign posted on windows at Holsworthy Link Centre - Credit: Rob Laroche

It adds that a ‘local implementation plan and timeframe for redesign of the service be developed for each centre [reopening], including efficiency and management arrangements and staff should ‘increasingly focus on outreach support with the mental health social work teams’. 

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Almost all (98 per cent) of respondents in the consultation did not agree with the proposal for the buildings to stay closed and to continue supporting service users remotely, but only around a third of people suggested alternatives. 

The recommendation comes after it was previously claimed by an ex-employee, as reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service, that the Holsworthy centre had closed permanently before the consultation began. 

Rob Laroche, a cleaner, said he turned up for work on Thursday, July 29, this year to find it had closed and he had lost his job. The four-week consultation did not begin until September 23. 

Mr Laroche said he had still been contracted to clean the building during its closure through the pandemic. 

Devon Council County said that was because staff had left and the closure was not linked to any consultation or proposed redesign of the service.

A Save Our Hospital Services link centre protest in Bideford

A Save Our Hospital Services link centre protest in Bideford - Credit: Linda Hellyer

There was also criticism over the length of the consultation, with one campaigner against the plans describing it as ‘woefully short’. 

However, it was defended by a senior council officer as a ‘full engagement and consultation process, following expert legal advice’. 

Members of Devon County Council’s cabinet will vote on the recommendations on Wednesday, December 8. 

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