A North East MSP has appealed to Aberdeenshire Council to provide reassurance to the public that no local drop-in centres will be closed as a result of a planned shake-up in mental health support.
Scottish Conservative Peter Chapman has written to the chief executive at the local authority and all elected members to express his concern at the impact of the service redesign.
Leading mental health charities have said that the quality of care for vulnerable people in Aberdeenshire could be put at risk as a result of the changes, while around 26 jobs could also go.
Mr Chapman has said that the council has a number of questions to answer and needs to provide assurances to his constituents who are worried about the loss of local services including drop-in centres.
In his letter, he said: “It is deeply alarming that leading mental health charities that provide support for some of the most vulnerable people in Aberdeenshire are raising concerns about the impact of a shake-up of service delivery and the effect this will have on their day to day living.
“People who experience mental health issues should be given the same chance in life as everyone else and in order to do this we need to have in place the best service possible.
“I understand the financial pressures Aberdeenshire Council is under but this must not be at the expense of vulnerable people and their families.
“The charities say these changes represent 40% more work but with a 25% budget reduction.
“The Scottish Government Minister for Mental Health has stated that an extra £150 million has been invested in Mental Health in Scotland over the past five years so I would have to question why the mental health budget is being cut by the council so dramatically.
“Some of my constituents are also worried about the impact this may have in the local community.
“Service centres in rural communities such as Banff, Ellon, Inverurie and Peterhead could be put at risk.
“I would urge council leaders to commit to maintaining these centres. At a time of increasing economic uncertainty in the North East, local communities need these support services on hand now more than ever.”
A spokesperson for Aberdeenshire Council said: “Aberdeenshire Council requires a mental health service which promotes the achievement of mentally well and inclusive communities in which people who experience mental ill health are enabled to recover and achieve their personal outcomes.
“We therefore invited organisations to tender to provide equitable services in North, Central and South Aberdeenshire, supporting those recovering from mental illness and helping them to participate in ordinary mainstream social, leisure, educational, and cultural activities alongside other members of the community.
“Part of the service requirement will be to work with Aberdeenshire Council and partners to reduce stigma around mental health and promoting local events/activities that support recovery. We also want to provide a counselling service which people can be referred to. Following a successful tendering exercise it is envisaged the new services will start on January 1, 2017.”