Women’s Therapy Centre closure: Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry lament latest attack on mental health services

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking in front of supporters. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn speaking in front of supporters. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA. - Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Jeremy Corbyn and Emily Thornberry are seething over the imminent closure of a historic Holloway women’s centre – they say its “tragic” loss is just the latest mental health service casualty to central government cuts.

Emily Thornberry: champion of votes at 16. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Emily Thornberry: champion of votes at 16. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

The Women’s Therapy Centre, in Manor Gardens, has strived to make psychotherapy available to all women, regardless of class, immigration status, disability, age or social and cultural background – it has helped “many thousands of women” since it was founded 42 years ago.

The world-leading centre, established by two feminist psychotherapists, has been a haven to many: offering “vital” support to vulnerable groups, such as refugees and survivors of domestic abuse, who might otherwise struggle to access therapy.

The Labour leader and Islington North veteran, who has been a steadfast supporter of the centre over the years, took time out from negotiating with European leaders in Brussels yesterday to tell the Gazette he’s “so sad at the news” the Women’s Therapy Centre is closing.

Mr Corbyn added: “The centre has been wonderful at supporting women who have great traumas and difficulties – its closure is a huge blow.

“The need is there but the lack of support by central government is the problem.”

The centre offers individual and group therapy, offering a safe space to talk for survivors of gender violence, trafficking, domestic slavery, forced marriage, honour violence, female genital mutilation and those with long-term medical conditions.

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A message on the soon-to-close centre’s website states it’s “sadly” closing over the coming week, due to “difficulties with funding.”

The charity also thanked the “many skilled and talented women who have been part of our story and are woven into the fabric of the Centre’s past and present”.

The Islington South and Finsbury MP, Emily Thornberry, told this paper: “It is desperately sad that a charity which has been providing vital support to some of the most vulnerable women in our community for the last four decades is having to shut its doors due to lack of funds.

“And it exposes the shameful reality that we have a government which talks about making mental health a priority but is leaving thousands of people in our community and millions across the country without the support they need, leaving charities to fill the void.

“That is why it is doubly tragic that we will lose one of those charities from our community this month.”

A report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic Abuse and Violence in September found that:

* At least half of the 1.2 million women in the UK who have experienced extensive violence and abuse throughout their lives meet the diagnostic criteria for a common mental health disorder.

* More than a third had made a suicide attempt, while a fifth had self harmed.

* More than a third of women in refuges have mental health specific needs, but less than a third of refuges employ mental health support workers.

* Only 20 per cent of domestic abuse services get any funding from local health bodies.

These bleak figures echo a joint Gazette investigation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalists in 2017, where it was revealed council spending for domestic violence refuges across London had fallen by 75 per cent since 2010.

More generally, evidence suggests cuts to mental health services across the UK have a disproportionate impact on women.

This British Medical Association (BMA) report argues: “Gender differences in mental health are underpinned by socio-economic realities which can disadvantage women and restrict their ability to access the support and resources they need to cope in the face of adversity.”

It later adds that “Women’s centres in particular, have been at the forefront of innovations in women’s mental health.”

“However,recent cuts to local authority budgets have meant this sector is struggling to provide sustainable support to women; notably domestic violence provision.

Miriam David was chair of trustees at the centre for nine years, before stepping down last May.

She told the Gazette: “I’m obviously aware we have had problems with being able to obtain funds because it was an increasingly competitive market.

“Historically we had funds from the NHS and local authority, but increasingly they weren’t funding these kinds of projects and we had to compete for charitable funding.

“The Women’s Therapy Centre was the first such centre, and it played a unique role in providing and developing psychotherapy for women.

“Over the last several years, since the policies of austerity and the introduction of the government funding CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which is a quick fix and isn’t really suitable for women in these groups, so it’s a huge loss and a tragedy.

“It has been closed because if austerity policies from the government.”

The Department for Health and Social Care and Islington’s Clinical Commissioning Group have both been approached for comment.

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