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Concerns after council ends contract with Islington mental health charity

13:30 27 July 2012

David Leigh with client Steve. Pic by Tony Gay

David Leigh with client Steve. Pic by Tony Gay

TONY GAY at tonephote@aol.com

A mental health charity that has served Islington for more than 30 years has lost a huge chunk of its funding – but one selfless worker has vowed to continue helping vulnerable residents without being paid for it.

Islington MIND, founded in 1981 and based in Wedmore Street, Upper Holloway, has lost a £670,000 contract to provide job support and training to people with mental health issues in Islington and Camden.

It will leave David Leigh, who runs the charity’s Jobs at Risk project, out of work himself, but he has pledged to carry on regardless.

He said: “My clients are devastated and I can’t walk away from them, so I’m going to do it for free.

“The council is only interested in saving money, but they’re saving it on the most vulnerable group in society.”

Jobs at Risk supports residents whose jobs are under threat because of their mental health problems.

Mr Leigh has more than 50 clients, including many who have suffered breakdowns due to workplace bullying or are locked in disputes with their employers. He fears they could be pushed back to square one if shunted on to a new provider.

“I have put my life and soul into trying to get these people treated fairly and I’m not prepared to let go,” Mr Leigh added.

One woman who has suffered a breakdown, and wishes to remain anonymous, said: “It feels like my employers have won now. David has been a godsend and I was shaken to my core when I heard about this. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Another service user said: “I don’t know where it leaves me. David knows all the history and I can’t just go to another provider.”

From August 1, the service will be taken over by Remploy, a government-owned firm that employs disabled people – and has recently faced strikes over plans to shut 27 factories. The council will save around £50,000, and will still provide money for Islington MIND’s day centres, although the jobs contract accounted for about half of its council funding.

Cllr Janet Burgess, executive member for health, said: “The tender process was rigorous, fair and open – Remploy’s was a very strong bid.

“I want to thank MIND for the support they’ve given and will continue to give. With government cuts closing the Remploy factory [in Haringey], our new contract offers hope and I wish them and their clients every success.”

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