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Pioneering mental health facility edges closer to becoming a reality

PUBLISHED: 20:24 12 June 2019 | UPDATED: 10:25 13 June 2019

Churchman House in Norwich, which is poised to become a pioneering wellbeing hub. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Churchman House in Norwich, which is poised to become a pioneering wellbeing hub. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Archant Norfolk.

A pioneering city centre facility geared at providing early intervention mental health care has taken a step closer to becoming a reality.

Paul Kendrick, Norwich City Council cabinet member for resources Photo: Bill SmithPaul Kendrick, Norwich City Council cabinet member for resources Photo: Bill Smith

The county's clinical commissioning groups have held the ambition of opening a community wellbeing hub for around two years - an easy access facility where people can drop-in and receive advice and support at the earliest possible stage.

However, issues including firming up a location for the project have mean it has yet to come to fruition.

Now though, Norwich City Council has agreed to lease Churchman House, the county's former register office, to NHS Property Services, allowing it eventually be used as the hub.

At a meeting of the council's cabinet, members agreed to release £150,000 of funding to NHS Property - obtained through the department of health and social care - to carry out renovation work to the grade one listed building.

Once the refurbishment has been completed, the building will be rented out by the council at £30,000 per year, which cabinet member Paul Kendrick described as a win-win situation.

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He said: "Churchman house is a 200-year-old building which the council owns and has been paying maintenance costs towards.

"This will provide a source of income to the council while also offering a vital form of support for people suffering with mental health issues in the community."

However, questions were asked over what the service will actually look like once it is up and running.

Karen Davies, cabinet member for social inclusion, said: "Even at this point I am not entirely sure if it will be a wellbeing hub or a crisis café - it hasn't been made clear.

"How can the building be refurbished when the exact services on offer have not been determined?"

Charles Mason, strategic asset manager at the council, said: "My understanding is there is going to be a café, but also support staff in the building. It will all be about early intervention."

The vision for a community wellbeing hub has been in the pipeline since 2017, with the proposals modelled on facilities launched in Aldershot, Bradford and Lambeth.

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