A Ramsgate mental health crisis cafe will open in March 2020 following public campaigns and NHS England grant

A campaign was initially launched by members of SpeakUp CIC last year

The doors will open at a crisis café in Ramsgate in March 2020 to help those living with mental ill health.

The facility is possible as part of a package of measures following a successful £4million bid by the Kent and Medway Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP).

The Isle of Thanet News revealed the successful bid, made during a mental health summit at the Winter Gardens, last month.

Now updated details reveal the timeline for mental health improvements in east Kent, including that of the isle’s crisis café.

The initial calls for the crisis café were made by Thanet mental health support group Speak UpCIC and publicised by The Isle of Thanet News last November.

This year the call was renewed following the tragic deaths of three young Thanet men who had been unable to access mental health services.

Family and friends of Ben Stone, and his brother Lee Thrumble, Marc Wood and Paul Connell, organised the highly successful Football United fundraiser and were among those at a meeting in Ramsgate in July organised by councillor Karen Constantine in response to the tragedies.

Paul, Marc and Ben

At that meeting a panel, including Thanet doctor Jihad Malasi, pledged to find ways to improve services for Thanet residents.

The meeting heard harrowing accounts of lost lives, struggles to access mental health services, family members at tipping point as they try to help their loved ones and huge gaps in care provision.

Again calls for an isle crisis café were made with SpeakUp CIC project worker John Childs and group member David Rowden telling the meeting the café idea had been the subject of discussion for more than three years but no action had been taken.

East Kent’s clinical commissioning groups – responsible for local health services – have now released a timeline for investment to improve mental health services across east Kent.

A report from the CCGs says: “Crisis cafés are places people can go and get support to help reduce the risk of mental health crisis. A wellbeing café in Ashford is currently run by Mid Kent MIND so discussions are being held about improving what they can offer in east Kent. Discussions are at an early stage but funding is available for the café in Ramsgate to open in 2020.”

Members of SpeakUp CIC

A spokesperson for SpeakUpCIC said: “Obviously it is fantastic news that there will be that crisis support following the campaigning buy us, Football United, Karen Constantine and others.

“We are embracing the news that there will be somewhere to go for people in crisis and that things are starting to happen. This doesn’t, of course,  address the need for preventative measures before people get to crisis point but  that’s what we at SpeakUPCIC, and others, do to try and help people before they reach that point.”

Cllr Karen Constantine

Councillor Karen Constantine welcomed the news but said work needed to take place to bridge the gap up until March 2020. She said: “I welcome the efforts that have gone into the planning and the dedication of our NHS staff. It barely needs saying that crisis intervention is much needed in Thanet. I very much welcome the crisis cafe. However for those who are in acute need March 2020 will seem like a very long wait indeed.

“I would urge more speed with some proactive outreach work being put into place as soon as possible. I also envisage a highly engaging communications strategy, so that people who become unwell will easily be able to access information at the point of crisis, when they need it most.

“The high intensity user initiative is also a very welcome step forward. However there is a note of caution, we really need to have efficient joined up services between various departments that people have to deal with. One local resident has found themselves feeling suicidal due to being wrongly served a bailiff’s warrant. When people are vulnerable due to mental ill health they need extra and often practical support. A full range of support must be put into place.

“We also need to look at putting in place improved services for our young people. I remain hopeful that the CCG will agree to a young persons mental health summit.”

The Ramsgate safe haven – revealed by The Isle of Thanet News in August – is also earmarked for the same opening date, although a venue is yet to be confirmed. Other improvements include increased support for GP surgeries with mental health expertise by January 2020, peer support crisis groups in Thanet and Dover before the end of the year and improvements to psychological services and community mental health support, particularly reduced waiting times for referrals.