Dundee Fighting for Fairness calls for 24/7 mental health drop in
Dundee’s leaders gathered in The Steeple on 29 November to hear Dundee’s second Fairness Commission’s recommendations on practical action to deal with stigma, poor mental health services and poverty.
Council Leader John Alexander, several Councillors and Jenny Marra MSP joined senior figures from the Third Sector, faith groups and others to hear stories from the twelve Commissioners whose lived experience of poverty, stigma and illness informed the whole event. Surprise appearances on video by First Minster Nicola Sturgeon and Mhairi Black MP served to emphasise that the Dundee Commission is part of a national drive to end poverty and discrimination across Scotland.
One Commissioner told how after becoming homeless he found himself owing money to three separate agencies who had provided temporary accommodation. Another who had suffered serious mental illness used video to describe how she was left without help when her community psychiatric nurse went off sick for several months. A community theatre group from Dundee Rep used drama to reveal the frustration and depression people feel when struggling with bureaucracy.
Twelve other commissioners were drawn from people who exercise power and authority in the city. Elaine Zwirlein, Director of Neighbourhood Services, said as someone who organises frontline services, she thought she had a good understanding of the difficulties people faced in their lives. But her year on the Commission hearing directly from people who faced daily challenges had changed her perception.
The Commission’s recommendations are listed in a well designed report. They include a call for public bodies and social landlords to communicate better. Rent arrears letters were highlighted – landlords should offer help and support instead of issuing demands. They recommend a single access point for all the financial advice services in the city and a publicity campaign to go with it.
On mental health the Commission suggests a 24/7 drop in service offering “clinical, non clinical, therapeutic and peer support”, possibly based in converted flats to create a positive atmosphere. And on stigma the Commission called for more training for public service staff.
Council Leader John Alexander, who also served on the Commission alongside Cllr Michael Marra, made his intention clear that the Council will always take poverty and other issues into account when making decisions for the city. Cllr Alexander raised a cheer when he thanked the outgoing Commission for its work and announced that the city council would “commission another Commission”. Commissioners also thanked staff from Faith in Community Dundee who had facilitated their work.