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North Devon Link Service Frequently asked questions

Below are frequently asked questions and statements received during the consultation, which remains open until Friday 22 October 2021. Answers will be updated periodically.

1.It is wrong to try and replace specialist and highly trained staff with volunteers and community groups. There is no capacity left in voluntary sector and volunteers are burnt out.  Voluntary support should not be a replacement for professional support. Mental health is complicated and getting it wrong can make things worse.

This proposal is not suggesting extra support is required from unpaid volunteers. The community and voluntary sector (sometimes known as the third sector) is huge and incredibly diverse and covers everything from neighbourhood watch groups to social enterprises to national and international charities and everything in between. There is a manager for each North Devon Link Service and the rest of the team are support workers. Many community and voluntary sector organisations employ specialist and skilled staff of this level and this kind of support could be enhanced by commissioning additional support from this sector.

Many of the people who use North Devon Link Services also access DPT services for specialist support.

2. Will services continue to be delivered virtually?

The intention with this proposal is to provide face to face support but more locally. Services would only be provided virtually where there is a particular request. However, we have learnt through Covid-19, some people have been able to access services virtually who wouldn’t be able to if they had to attend physically.  For example, people who are unwilling or unable to leave their house.  Many services want to continue to deliver some aspects of virtual support alongside face to face.

3. Could there be a more creative use of the spaces available or use other buildings in the town for the delivery of a service to be a real community asset, meeting needs such as digital exclusion by providing workspaces, a resource space etc?

Proposals such as these will be considered as part of the final decision together with ideas about how any such facilities might be run.

4. Are people collected from home and taken/bused to the centres?

In most situations this isn’t the case. The purpose of outreach for many people is to encourage attendance at the centre. People in receipt of outreach may be collected and walked to the centre but the numbers were very low.

5. Are social prescribers allowed to refer to the North Devon Link Service?

Social Prescribers could refer to the North Devon Link Service. However, since November 2020, nobody has been able to refer to the service due to the change of service delivery because of Covid-19. 

6.Mental health professionals should be designing this service.

This consultation is run jointly with Devon Partnership NHS Trust who are the mental health trust for Devon. We are working together to review the consultation responses to inform any redesign.

7. Why has there been no face-to-face meetings as part of this consultation?

It is recognised that service user and stakeholder face to face meetings would be most appropriate for this consultation process.  However, Public Health Devon and Devon County Council Corporate and legal services have advised that with cases of Covid-19 expected to remain high and with Devon being classified as an enhance response area, face-to-face public meetings should not take place.  We have taken reasonable measures to make the consultation as accessible as possible:

A copy of the consultation document was sent to all North Devon Link Service users with a stamped addressed envelope to provide the opportunity for written feedback either by post or e-mail.

The consultation document and accompanying questionnaire was published on the Devon County Council Have Your Say webpage with the opportunity to provide feedback.

Three virtual events being hosted by Teams live events.

8. Will classes and groups like those accessed through the link centres still be available?

We have heard feedback from the engagement process about how important the groups and classes are to the people who use the centres. It is the aim of this proposal to have those groups and classes running more widely than just the four towns where the centres are based.

Devon Recovery Learning Community provide a wide range of free, open access opportunities to learn about mental health and recovery – many are still running virtually at present. Devon Recovery Learning Community – supporting you to learn to live well – Devon Recovery Learning Community (devonrlc.co.uk)

9. The proposal is vague a present. How will people be able to access the new service and the service that will be provided by the community and voluntary sector?

We appreciate that you would like more information, but we haven’t done any of the detail work yet because we don’t know if this proposal will go ahead – it will depend on the outcome of the consultation and it is important not to pre-empt that.

10.  Is this the right time to be closing mental health services when we hear on the news all the time about the impact of Covid-19 on people’s mental health?

It is important to note that we are not closing a service, rather we are proposing that it is delivered differently. We know that public transport is poor in North Devon and some people do not have transport or other means to get to the current centres. We want to ensure that the service is delivered more flexibly and widely across Northern Devon so more people can access support.

11. It is important that people with poor mental health have a safe space to go to where they don’t feel judged. The drop in provides this.

We will consider all the feedback that is received, and we have received feedback that people value the drop-in element. Depending on the outcome of the consultation, we would look at what services are offered in each town and how they can best be delivered, and other ways to provide a drop in could be investigated.

12. Are Devon County Council making this change because they want to sell the buildings and get more money?

That consideration hasn’t been discussed as part of this proposal as it is about service redesign, not making cuts or saving money.

13.How much do the buildings cost to run?

We are confirming that information and will share it as soon as we can. This year and last year were not typical years because of Covid-19.

14. Where will people go in crisis if this service closes?

This service should not be used as a crisis service, it has never been for people in crisis and the staff are not trained or qualified to provide that support. DPTs crisis services are for those incidences, through their 24/7 urgent mental health helpline 0808 196 8708.

15. It appears that in the new format, people will need to be assessed as having a need. This takes time and often people with mental health issues do not have time to hang around and wait. Can you clarify this? How will this work?

It’s really important to ensure that existing service users have continuity of care and support. Each person will have an assessment by their local service, so we can understand their current needs to ensure it is meeting their need, and signpost if necessary or assess under the care act to establish ongoing support. It will be done in a timely way and staff will be trained to undertake these assessments. People will be able to access support services while waiting for an assessment.

16. Cases and issues of mental health conditions have been increasing. I do not believe that people have been able to access mental health services easily. I am concerned that things are going to get more difficult, also with the assessments.

Access to services hasn’t changed. The first response service is open for self- referrals or you can ask your GP to refer you in. This won’t change with the consultation.

17. How will the £3.65M be spent?

That money is part of the investment for the community mental health framework and is not part of this consultation.

18. Could you define what ‘Support’ means?

By support we mean helping people – this could include everything from professional assessment to helping prevent loneliness and isolation.

19. Who will be doing the assessments? How soon do these take place?

Part of the proposal is for the link centre staff to conduct these assessments. Existing service users will have assessments with staff they already know. We aim for them to be completed in the standard 28 days assessment time.

20. Have we sought the views of practice managers? 

We have been linking with the practice managers through the Northern Integrated Delivery Group (IDG), and we have also contacted all North Devon GP surgeries with details of the consultation process.

21. The waits to access mental health services in North Devon are long, 2 years of more. The Link Service is all that is available whilst waiting to be seen.  What will happen if the Link Service closes?    

The proposal is to redesign the service rather than close them – and people will not be left without a service.

22. What will be available for people who are classed as too risky for mainstream community services?  All that is currently available to them is the North Devon Link Service.

We will ensure that nobody is left without a service. The purpose of the assessment and review process is to ensure that everyone gets the right support for their needs. There are will be a wide range of services available that will meet a wide range of needs.

23. The current link centre service should be extended and run more often.

Our proposal would mean that a wider range of options would be available to provide support to more people, and that could mean offering services at different times and/or longer hours than some of the current centres. This consultation is about listening to feedback on our proposal as well as any alternative suggestions, and we will consider requests like this as part of that process.