Staff shortages shut ‘safe haven’ service

A mental health service, which provides a ‘safe haven’ for those in crisis, will be closed this Christmas due to a lack of staff.

The Isle of Wight Community Safe Haven was opened last autumn in response to public demand for crisis support. The ‘safe haven’ has been hailed as a potentially lifesaving service for troubled individuals who have nowhere else to go in the evenings and at weekends.

Those who use mental health services, had requested an out-of-hours facility for times when they were experiencing a crisis and just needed someone to talk to. The service was staffed by both professionals and volunteers, and provided much needed advice, support and information.

The Richmond Fellowship, which runs drop-in service at Quay House, Newport, said it was working hard to recruit new staff and expected to reopen in 2019.

The chief executive of Richmond Fellowship, Derek Caren, described its service as “vital”. Derek said: “Our vision is to work with the people we support to make mental health recovery a reality and we believe the community safe haven is an important first step in meeting that vision for the people on the Isle of Wight.”

A spokesperson for the Richmond Fellowship said: “Unfortunately, our safe haven drop in service is temporarily closed due to staff shortages. We are working hard to recruit and train new staff and expect to reopen in January.”

Sue Lightfoot, Head of Commissioning Mental Health, Learning Disability and Dementia at NHS Isle of Wight CCG, said: “This situation is very worrying for anyone using this service, and also difficult for the staff at Richmond Fellowship, who are committed to offering people the best possible support.

“We are actively working with Richmond Fellowship now to make sure a service, albeit with reduced hours, continues to operate – safely – over the coming weeks, to ensure that support is still available to those in need. Existing staff from other Richmond Fellowship services have volunteered to work extra hours to offer this support.

“There are of course other sources of support available, including the Community Mental Health Team crisis line 01983 522214, or the Samaritans on Freephone 116 123, but the Safe Haven plays an important role and we hope it can continue.

“Looking further ahead, we are also working with Richmond Fellowship to recruit new members of staff so that the service can quickly be returned to a sustainable footing. This recruitment is under way already and we expect the Safe Haven to be operating a full service in the New Year.”

Anyone struggling with a mental health issue is advised to call the Samaritans, on freephone 116 123, or the trust’s community mental health team crisis line on 522214.