Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Someone's made a mistake...

Hey Guys!

This is a slightly different post, but one that is not only close to my heart, but also one I have wanted to write for a while but haven't known the right time. I mentioned in my 21 Facts About Me post that I work for a charity called Caledonia Youth and I mentioned it was very important to me it is a really great charity which helps a lot of people. It has worked so hard to make the charity the best it can be and keep it providing helpful and supportive services for young people throughout Scotland. (I feel like I need to mention that all the opinions of this post are coming from me, nowhere else).
Now, for the last 45 years or so Caledonia Youth has provided a clinical service for originally under 25's (this became under 22's last July). This clinic has provided key sexual health support and advice services in an accessible, friendly and non-judgemental way for young people in Edinburgh and the Lothian's for a long time (and I know, people still don't like talking about sexual health, but it's an important issue). The clinic, has always been seen as a more approachable service to GP's or other more medical organisations by young people, because we don't treat it as a clinical service, we are here to help.
Our organisation, as a charity has always worked in partnership with NHS Lothian for this service. However, this 'partnership' recently changed after the NHS spent millions to build and develop their own big clinic, Chalmers. The Chalmers centre, originally took over all the GUM (don't ask me what it stands for, I've never known) services. However, they were always seen as still very inaccessible by our younger clients as their drop-in times were during school hours, and they didn't like the environment. Now, this is when my opinions (and view of my friends start to come through), it became noticeable that the NHS were trying to make the most of their new service - which when you spent as much money on it as they did is fair enough, but this resulted in our charities funding being cut, as the NHS felt we were not an 'essential' service, which annoys me, because from any young person we've spoken to it seems like Chalmers is a hugely unapproachable place, so young people are reluctant to use it. This funding, has continually been cut and cut until finally some bright spark at NHS Lothian decided to just completely stop supporting our little local charity and stop funding our clinic altogether.

This cut came in stages, originally they 'asked' us to cut our age range from under 25's to under 22's, and then finally a few months later telling us they didn't need our service any more. I think this is the biggest mistake they could make (and I know of course I'd say that, I work here) but from feedback I've heard, no young person would willingly want to visit Chalmers because they feel they are being judged. I know that we are in difficult economic times, and government bodies are having to make cuts, but surely they made a mistake spending so much money on the building of an new centre, when there were services already being provided? It's not like there weren't any NHS run clinics available run prior to that.

Anyway, what bugged me most about the decision to shut our service, wasn't that they were actually closing the service, it was that they didn't even ask for young people's opinion, there was no consultation actually done. They kept justifying the closure by saying that it was what is best for young people, but they never actually asked any young people if that was what they wanted!! It just kind of feels like the really don't care about what's best for these young and sometimes vulnerable people, and only care about their own service. I understand that if you spend all that money on a new clinic, you would want to make the most of it, but surely you would want as much support from outside organisations who have such a great amount of experience in the field?!

Regardless of what is said or done now, I know that there is no way that this decision is every going to be changed. It is frustrating that we see these larger charities with celebrity endorsement continue to thrive and have money thrown at them. That's not to say that they don't do very useful work and aren't great organisations, but it sometimes seems that if a charity doesn't have celebrity endorsement or a big advertising budget, they aren't taken as seriously, maybe that's just me. I worry that in 5 years' time NHS Lothian are going to see the repercussions of these actions, in increased teen pregnancy rates or something and wish they had kept us open, and we won't be able to help. I worry that it is going to cause the issue of sexual health to go back into the shadows, because let's be honest, people really don't like being open about it. I think, that with our organisation the issue is tackled in way which is less about sex and more about positive relationships which makes much easier for people to be open and honest. I worry that the NHS jut view it as a very clinical thing, and won't take the time out to really help support people in making more positive choices. It will just be another tick box, and if young people start to feel as it's something not to be open and honest about it could result in people avoiding discussing an issue, which we can't really avoid.

For Caledonia Youth, it is now a matter of simply redirecting attention and work to new and different projects. Yes, the loss of the clinic is a big loss for the organisation, but it isn't the only service we provide, and in the next year it's just a matter of rebuilding the charity to a stronger and better position. I firmly believe that the organisation is more than capable of growing in strength over the next few years.
I really hope that NHS Lothian prove me wrong and learn from the experience and expertise of the staff from our clinic which rather than lose their jobs are being moved up to work at the Chalmers centre (which is a silver lining for them anyway). From what I can see however, within this current situation it would appear that there are more organised 3 year olds, it has just been a complete mess.

What do you think? Do you think government bodies should be supporting local charities like Caledonia Youth or not? Do you think sexual health needs to be made more important in our society? Let me know.
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