ON THE GROUND: Mosaic Clubhouse, Lambeth

Dominic Wood

Scheme: A drop-in centre for mentally ill people in Lambeth

Funding: Total of £400,000 per year. £200,000 from Lambeth Council, £140,000 from Lambeth Primary Care Trust and £60,000 from fundraising activities

Objectives: To improve self-esteem and encourage club members into employment

The Mosaic Clubhouse is a drop-in centre in the London borough of Lambeth, which attempts to build up the confidence of people with mental health problems. It deals with many of the setbacks associated with their illness, such as being denied opportunities to work because of the stigma attached to their condition.

Founded under the Lambeth Healthcare NHS Trust in 1994, the clubhouse set up a transitional employment programme to run work placements for members.

The programme is currently able to help 16 people by offering them six to nine months' paid work experience placements with local community employers. It has 500 members in total, 200 of whom drop in every few weeks, while others appear less frequently. The clubhouse welcomes around 50 people on any one day, yet only around 30 members have successfully progressed through the programme in the nine years since its launch.

Chris Kane is one of those 30. "Working has made me feel good about myself. It gives me a reason to get up in the morning," said Kane, who was recently helped into work for the first time in four years.

That the number of success stories is relatively small is due in part to the seriousness of members' illness. But it is also hampered by the welfare benefits system, which did not include a rehabilitation allowance when it was updated in April 2002. Broadly, anyone with an illness or disability in receipt of state benefits is limited to earning £67.70 per week, which accounts for about 12 hours' work.

"Our idea is that a clubhouse member will work up to 30 hours a week," says Nigel Allen, director of Mosaic, "But the law is very limiting because of the huge chasm between working 12 hours a week, and the typical 35-hour week we usually associate with full-time work. It becomes virtually impossible to move on from 12 hours a week to full-time work,and members find themselves indefinitely trapped within the mental health system of day care and hospitals."

The Mosaic Clubhouse became a registered charity in October 1998, and when the NHS Trust was scrapped in 1999, the building came directly under the charity's management. Because of its origins, the clubhouse is 85 per cent funded by local government.

"We have grown into a work-focused clubhouse," says Allen. "Our therapy includes allowing members to help run the clubhouse. They develop skills and self-confidence through working together on a variety of tasks in order to achieve normality."

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