A few years ago, a group with mental health issues formed USUC, or United Service Users Committee, which fought Salford City Council and Greater Manchester Mental Health Trust tooth and nail over cuts to its drop-ins, even occupying Salford Council chamber (see here).
The core group of those campaigns decided to go it alone and formed the independent Cromwell House Users' Group, or C.H.U.G., which now meets three times a week at the Salford Link Project on Chadwick Road in Eccles...
"It's a follow up to the USUC campaign to keep the mental health support group drop-in going" Steve Cullen from C.H.U.G. explains "We've changed the name to Cromwell House Users Group because it originated from Cromwell House which had a drop-in but the Council at the time, under Mayor Ian Stewart, wanted to put us in the Gateway Centre with very little support and no facilities.
"We objected to that and have been moved about different buildings but we've been here for over two years, and are now established" he adds "If you suffer now, or have done in the past, from mental health issues you are more than welcome. We have no official involvement with the Council or Greater Manchester Mental Health so you don't need a referral to attend."
C.H.U.G. operates mental wellbeing drop-ins three times a week 10am until 1pm. On Mondays and Wednesdays, Start In Salford do arts and crafts and the Salford Health Improvement team offer health checks and advice. But really, it's an informal get together and a meeting place to have a brew, some hot food and a chat...
"We've got a pool table, and another big table where people can talk" says Steve "A lot of the time it's about getting out of the house and mixing with other people who have suffered the same as what you are suffering, share experiences and hopefully it makes life a little bit easier. We can't offer help with benefit forms but we can offer emotional support."
While current Salford Mayor, Paul Dennett, approves and offers support for C.H.U.G., along with the NHS and City West Housing, it hasn't brought back the funding to rent rooms and get facilities for the group, which is now, like a lot of former Council services, reliant on the good will of the community.
"We've had to raise funds through grants, car boots and summer fairs but now our money is running out" Steve explains "At the minute Greater Manchester Police is sponsoring us as their divisional charity of the year..."
Indeed, Salford GMP states in its appeal that "The group provide a vital service to the vulnerable members of the community and would close without public donations..."
Steve himself has just opened a texting page for people to text money, and C.H.U.G. has a car boot stall at the Eccles Festival tomorrow, Sunday, which will also have information leaflets and collecting buckets.*
C.H.U.G. has come a long way since its founding as a hard core campaign group, and is now hoping that medical practices and housing associations signpost people to its sessions while displaying the group's posters.
"If you suffer yourself or know someone who does, send them, or come down with them, to our drop-ins" says Steve "We want to introduce longer hours but the stumbling block is funds..."
C.H.U.G. Mental Wellbeing Drop-Ins
Monday, Wednesday Friday 10am -1pm
Salford Link Project
Corner of Bright Road and Chadwick Road Eccles M30 0WP
Unlimited hot drinks 70p/hot food around £1.50
*See C.H.U.G. stall at the Eccles Festival Sunday 10th September
Eccles Recreation Ground, Oxford Street, off Liverpool Road, Eccles M30 0FW 10am-4pm
To donate to C.H.U.G. see the Just Giving Page – click here
To text a donation: Text BBFX80 £1 to 70070.
C.H.U.G. is also looking for a builder to donate an hour to help fix a name plaque onto the wall of Salford Link – contact 07941 1400870
For further details see the CHUG Cromwell House Users Group Facebook page – click here