Funding blow to mental health project for black men in Hackney

THE loss due to funding cuts of a ground-breaking project for black men in Hackney with mental health problems has sparked anger among members, volunteers and campaign groups.

Focus group 4Sight, which aims to tackle the disproportionate ratio of black African and Caribbean men in the UK mental health system, will be forced to close when its �68,000 NHS funding stops in September.

The project, based in Lee House Rehabilitation and Employment Centre in Rectory Road, Stoke Newington, started in 2005 and currently helps 72 men discuss mental health issues with mentors and get involved in community activities.

They also give advice to the police – but all of this will stop when the project, run by NHS mental health programme Mellow, based in Commercial Street, loses funding and two members of staff will be made redundant.

Daniel Johnson, 47, has been a member of 4Sight for about four years and says not enough has been done to help underprivileged people in Hackney.

“I think we should be angry,” he said. “I do not see how withdrawing the little funding they give to 4Sight will help to cut spending.”

James Brophy, who volunteers as a mentor, added: “I think it’s an insane decision.

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“I understand cuts have to be made, but I can’t see what money you are saving if you cut down this scheme. All that will happen is these men will turn up on the wards.”

Research has shown that African and Caribbean men are more likely than other groups to be detained under the Mental Health Act and stay longer on the wards, according to the head of Mellow, Sandra Griffiths.

The 4Sight scheme, the only one of its kind in Hackney, had received consistently positive feedback from members, evaluations and partners in combating this, she said.

Health groups have also raised concerns about the impact on the community once the scheme ends.

Hackney councillor and chief executive of The Afiya Trust, Patrick Vernon, said: “I think the primary care trust should seriously look at this because there will be long-term consequences. I am very concerned about what will happen to these men.”

Elizabeth Bayliss, executive director of Social Action for Health, said the loss of such a successful scheme would have a “terrible impact” on mental health in the community.

A spokeswoman for East London NHS Foundation Trust said it was always planned to end funding for 4Sight in September and it was currently looking at how the scheme could continue to be funded as a part of Mellow’s existing programme.