Skip to main content

To: Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Rob Wilson MP, Alok Sharma MP, Theresa May MP, John Redwood MP

Save Winterbourne Therapeutic Community

Please stop Winterbourne therapeutic community from closing.

Why is this important?

Mental health in the UK is in crisis. As it's seen as an invisible problem, cuts are being made across the country in the hopes that the public won't notice or care. But most people will experience, or will have a family member or friend experience, mental health problems - this is in fact an issue that touches us all. We need to fight for our vital services. We need to fight for Winterbourne Therapeutic Community.

The Winterbourne therapeutic community (TC), a large part of the Berkshire Complex Needs Service, is due to end in November 2015. The TC has been operating for almost 50 years and is highly-respected among therapists who work with TCs. This is a therapeutic model that works by bringing people together, all of whom suffer with longstanding emotional problems, and turn them into a community. Members’ experiences include abuse, neglect, trauma, deprivation and loss, particularly early in life, which leads to an inability to take care of themselves and form healthy, sustained relationships with other people. The fact that members are able to form a community is a huge testament to the hard work of both the members and the therapists.

Winterbourne TC offers its members therapy of 18 hours a week for 18 months. Every member joins knowing that TC offers no quick fix, but is extremely successful when hard work and commitment is applied. In today’s world of cuts and demands for immediate results, it’s no wonder that therapeutic communities are unpopular and at risk across the UK, despite their efficacy and cost-effectiveness in the long-term (…/a1CG0000000GTAxMAO). TC can only operate with full openness, which is why it’s particularly disturbing that there has been a lack of this when communicating about the future of TC.

Members, both current and former, were only informed about the imminent closure of TC this month, September, meaning we’ve had very little time to organise and get a campaign plan going. Ex-members were invited to a workshop regarding ongoing psychological services provided by Berkshire Healthcare NHS trust at the beginning of September. As there was no context, and it was held from 3.30pm til 5.00pm, people who were working didn’t attend, whereas they would have made special arrangements to have attended had the workshop’s purpose been clear.

The official reason for the closure of Winterbourne TC, given by Cathy Saunders, a spokeswoman for the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, is that the site has recently been deemed “unsuitable for use” (…/patients-outrage-over-closure…), without further detail. There had been signs for some time that the TC was under threat for financial reasons: for a long period of time prospective members have been hard to find, despite the fact that previously TC was in such high demand that there was a waiting list. Additionally, this year the number of therapists in each ‘small group’ has decreased from 2 to 1. Small groups consist of up to 6 members of the community, where psychotherapy and discussion can take place in a more sustained, detailed way. Therapists are an integral part of the small groups, so this cut has been sorely felt.

Winterbourne TC is incredibly special. It operates through a “living-learning” experience, which includes tasks like providing a meal for all members and therapists, teaching members how to get on with the ordinary business of living. For the incredibly hard process of leaving, a leavers’ group helps members think about life after TC, professionally and in terms of their own welfare. It also provides 24/7 support – outside of community hours, members telephone each other for support. Physical support, when telephone support just isn’t enough, can also be arranged, where members of a community come together to offer support and love during what can feel like the very darkest hours of all. This community has kept people alive. It has taught many people how to live, not just exist. This petition calls for this invaluable service to be kept open - it has been a literal lifeline to so many people.

A member's story - Samuel:
I would wake up every day and within seconds I’d be crushed by the disappointment that I was still here. Every hour I was conscious my time would be consumed either by unhealthy coping mechanisms or fantasies of suicide. I attempted suicide multiple times before the age of 22. Had I not been referred to Winterbourne Therapeutic Community in early 2014, I likely would be dead or dying by now. I am 24 years old.

In September 2015, I completed my treatment in the Therapeutic Community and barely recognise the person I was when I started. During my time there I developed confidence, self awareness and a desire to live. I learned the skills required to leave my parents’ house and live independently. I made friends and made plans for a better life and made peace with my past and my decisions and my pain.

Maps © Stamen; Data © OSM and contributors, ODbL


2017-03-10 13:53:28 +0000

500 signatures reached

2015-11-02 23:18:34 +0000

Amazing news!

Winterbourne Therapeutic Community will remain open for another 9 months but will be moving to a new location. Instead of members being offered a few hours of therapy per week to replace three days' worth, TC will now take place 2.5 days a week. The 24/7 phone support system will continue. Some much-loved staff members are being relocated but many key therapists will remain. The community will accept new members.

This is not perfect, but miraculous when compared to the situation we thought TC would be in by now. The current members have been brilliant - in addition to managing their own therapy, they have conducted a local media campaign and, when senior members of the Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust came to a community meeting, they spoke passionately about their therapy.

Remember that the battle has been won but not the war. Thank you for signing this petition - we should be proud of fighting for something that makes such a difference.

2015-10-08 11:52:18 +0100

100 signatures reached

2015-10-07 13:29:12 +0100

50 signatures reached

2015-10-07 09:56:04 +0100

25 signatures reached

2015-10-07 09:02:46 +0100

10 signatures reached