A BLOCK of flats near Peasley Cross Hospital is set to be refurbished to house people battling mental health issues – and will be the first of its kind in Merseyside.

Cross Meadows will provide one-bedroom apartments for 14 mental health service users for up to two years, as well as two, short-term crisis beds.

The proposed facility is across from Peasley Cross Hospital, which is where the borough’s mental health services are based.

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Housing provider Torus will be investing approximately £600,000 in the scheme and has asked for a one-off commitment of £60,000 towards the refurbishment of the preferred site.

This will be split 50/50 between St Helens Borough Council and St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).

On Wednesday, the council’s cabinet agreed to commit £30,000 of capital investment in the scheme.

“We will be the only borough within Merseyside that has a self-purpose building for this very vulnerable group,” said Cllr Marlene Quinn, cabinet member for adult social care and health.

Under the proposals, an existing block of flats based at the site will be refurbished, which will be secured and manned 24 hours and will have separate entrances for male and female residents.

The council and the CCG has come up with the scheme to help improve the transition of mental health service users from secure provision to community settings.

A report that went before cabinet says this has been in issue for St Helens as service users get ‘stuck’ in high cost secure provision due to the lack of adequate capacity within the borough for alternative, more appropriate, care settings in the community.

This also, in turn, places a pressure on the health system as this particular cohort of vulnerable service users often present at A&E.

Cllr Quinn said work on the scheme has been going on for a number of years, saying it was “long overdue”.

She said: “It’s a much-needed scheme and we should be very proud that we are now meeting the need of a very vulnerable group that sadly has been neglected throughout the country by various governments.

“And local authorities have had to manage the best way they can.

“Being located where it is, it’s hoped, and the business cases says it will – hopefully does – it will free up more bed space in the hospital across the road.

“That will be a savings for us. It will give untold benefits to our service users, building independence, being confident – all those things.

“It will be for a maximum of a two-year period for those 14 individuals, because the issue we have with a lot of mental health service provision in housing is they get settled and that is not integrating them into the community.

“I think cabinet should be extremely proud of what the proposal is today, and I think we should shout loud and clear that this is a result of our integration.”

St Helens Star: llr Marlene Quinn, St Helens Borough Council's cabinet member for adult social care and health.llr Marlene Quinn, St Helens Borough Council's cabinet member for adult social care and health.

The cabinet report says the crisis beds in particular are likely to reduce the incidence of A&E and acute inpatient admissions associated with this cohort of service users, bringing savings for the CCG.

In addition, any deterioration in the service user’s mental health will be recognised much sooner, potentially avoiding a hospital admission.

Along with this, there are group individuals in costly out of area placements which, if moved into the scheme, would realise further significant savings for the CCG.

The report says that if a service user is deemed as not being able to progress within the two-year timescale there will be an opportunity to offer a long-term
tenancy through the support from our local housing provider.

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The scheme will cost the council around £71,000 per annum for 14 tenancies via the current pooled budget arrangement, the report says.

The report states that if these service users transfer from current packages of care, an equivalent saving would be £75,000, therefore the revenue position for the council is “broadly neutral.”

However, it says that, as the mix and referral source of the service users is unknown, any significant change to this position will be brought back through the decision-making process.