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Correspondence to the Minister: withdrawal of funding for SASW/Scottish Government MHO Annual Study Day

SASW, at the request of the MHO Forum, wrote to Mr Jamie Hepburn MSP, the minister responsible for mental health, on 12 March. The communication requested his consideration to reflect on the withdrawal of funding for the annual MHO study day as well as the MHO newsletter produced by the Mental Welfare Commission. Mr Hepburn replied on 15 April. He asserted that MHO’s make an invaluable contribution to improving the lives of mental health patients and their friends and families, and the Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that this continues.

Mr Hepburn commented that it is the responsibility of the local authorities to make plans for the continuous professional development of their MHO workforce, and while the Scottish Government has funded the production of the MHO newsletter and the MHO study day, it is time to revisit that in the light of available resources which are fully committed.

The letter goes on to state that SASW and other partners were allegedly asked to consider alternative ways of delivering both the event and newsletter, but that proposals to that effect were not received; therefore officials indicated that in the short term the priority would be to implement the Mental Health Bill, and how to support MHO’s to deal with changes in the legislation.

The latter statement is in our opinion somewhat confusing, as we have the annual study day to allow practitioners to do exactly that, which was clearly highlighted in our original correspondence.

Mr Hepburn wants to consider how ongoing training and communication with MHO’s and other professional groups can be delivered by partners on a sustainable basis, and welcomes SASW’s involvement in that process.

We have responded in a brief letter, advising that we attempted a number of meetings with representatives of the Mental Health and Rights Unit at the Government, which were all cancelled – the last one on the day of the meeting. We are, however, committed to going forward in a constructive and positive manner and will attempt, in partnership with the MWC and SWS, to have further discussion on best ways to ensure the support and training that MHO’s need.

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