Newsmaker: New frontiers - Angela Greatley Chief executive, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health

Nathalie Thomas

A changed agenda of mental health in workplaces and prisons.

If the world were ruled by Acevo, then The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health would surely be assigned the role of Antichrist.

As the chief executives' body is advocating greater voluntary sector involvement in statutory services, Angela Greatley, chief executive of SCMH, is encouraging the organisation to go against the prevailing wind.

The centre, which was set up by the Gatsby Foundation in 1985, is pulling back from its work training public-sector staff. It is preparing to cut off a significant proportion of its £4.5m annual income and is even proposing to shed 38 jobs as it embarks upon a quest to regain the fire in its belly.

"We've had a tradition for 20 years of tackling the mental health problems that are possibly the most difficult to tackle," says Greatley. "We've always tried to deal with the needs of those people who receive the poorest services and who sometimes drop out of statutory services."

SCMH, Greatley says, provided critical support to the mental health sector as it moved from large psychiatric hospitals to community-based solutions.

Its staff were at the forefront of training and development.

But now that government agencies such as the National Institute for Mental Health and the Care Services Improvement Partnership are catching up, Greatley feels it is time to shut the door on one area of the charity's work and start moving towards another.

She says: "It seemed to us we had reached an interesting stage where the Government was taking the implementation of these changes seriously and the job of the sector was to move on and look at new frontiers."

Employment and mental health in prisons will be the two areas on which Greatley and her team will be focusing their efforts for the foreseeable future. She admits it will be a sad farewell for some - particularly for those who will no longer find themselves on the payroll - but Greatley is excited to be moving away from government funding and towards creative things.

"There was a danger we would have lost the innovative aspect of our thinking and work because we were heavily engaged in delivery," she says. "But there's now this opportunity to really get the edge back."

Although SCMH has done some work in employment before, it will navigate uncharted waters as it tries to address the problem of mental health in prisons.

With about 90 per cent of prison inmates struggling with some sort of mental health complaint, Greatley thinks she will have her work cut out.

"Everyone knows it's difficult," she says.

But the charity will not be acting alone, and Greatley has already made new friends among the prison and criminal justice charities to see how, with their joint wisdom, some of the problems can be resolved.

It is difficult to argue with SCMH's reasons for wanting to address what it sees as bigger problems in a neglected area. The charity has, however, had to bear the brunt of criticism about the vacuum it will be leaving behind. Greatley admits the job is not completely done, but she is nevertheless resolute about pressing on. "You rarely say 'well, that's a neat and tidy end to that'," she says. "Now it's for others to finish and for us to pick up these new areas and start again on really difficult things."

This is not a luxury most voluntary organisations engaged in public service delivery can afford, and Greatley knows that. She acknowledges the vital role other organisations are playing in the statutory sector, but feels it is the job of charities such as SCMH to help the unhelped and keep the Government on its toes.

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