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Protect Lifeline Campaign

The future of Lifeline –the crisis counselling helpline for Northern Ireland – is at risk. The Protect Lifeline Campaign raises urgent concern that Public Health Agency proposals will fragment and downgrade the Lifeline service.

The service model proposed by the Public Health Agency in the current public consultation will radically alter the Lifeline service ethos, design and practice. If allowed to proceed, the PHA proposals will fragment and downgrade the Lifeline service, placing vulnerable lives at risk.

CAMPAIGN MESSAGES IN DETAIL:

· Protect Lifeline, Northern Ireland’s world–class 24/7 suicide prevention crisis helpline and counselling service for people of all ages

· Protect vulnerable lives: The PHA proposed model will downgrade the crisis helpline replacing professional counselling, advocacy and referral services with a listening and signposting service staffed by call operators. The proposed focus on advice and signposting for people in crisis is misplaced and has the potential to severely undermine the likelihood of vulnerable callers reaching specified support services. The current Lifeline outreach model ensures essential bridging and linking for the person in crisis with their identified loved ones and service providers, safely navigating the journey from crisis call to the right support service.  Recent studies conclude that more than 50% of people assessed at suicide risk do not engage with support services without follow–up outreach. The PHA proposes Lifeline follow–up for only 5% of callers.

 · Protect continuity of care: The proposal to separate the Lifeline crisis helpline from Lifeline follow–on support services will fragment the crisis care pathway. Callers in need will be given a unique reference number and signposted to a different service provider. This fragmentation will cause critical gaps in information–sharing at crisis point, undermining safe ‘warm handover’ support for the caller to engage with essential follow–on support services. This proposal is at variance with international suicide prevention best practice which highlights the need to facilitate continuity of care at crisis point.

· Preserve access to Lifeline for independent professional confidential support

· Preserve access to follow–on support: The PHA future plans for Lifeline are confused, citing   additional investment in community–based crisis counselling yet only those at immediate risk of suicidewill meet counselling eligibility thresholds. This step will poorly serve people suffering low to moderate suicide risk, the population where most suicides occur.  UK and international suicide prevention research advises that risk–rating alone should not be used as a tool to exclude people from follow–on support.

· Preserve Lifeline independence: The PHA proposal to commission the crisis helpline from statutory healthcare (NI Ambulance Service) will reduce choice and undermine the independent, confidential, non–stigmatising ethos of the current Lifeline service model.

· Preserve learning: The proposed dispersal of Lifeline follow–on psychological therapies from a single regional provider to a minimum of five locality–based providers will undermine service expertise and consistency, limiting the potential for research and applied learning from service evaluation due to quality standard variation across five, or more, providers.

· Promise to support the vision of driving suicide deaths to zero for people seeking crisis support

URGENT CALL TO ACTION:

We request you read and respond to the Public Health Agency public consultation by 1pm, 19th November.

The Strategic Outline Business Case for the future of Lifeline can be viewed here along with the Questionnaire and a Draft Equality Impact Assessment and remaining workshops open to the public.

http://www.publichealth.hscni.net/consultation-future-lifeline-crisis-intervention-service

Should you wish to read the detailed Lifeline Consultation Concerns and Considerations briefing paper prepared by Contact please click here:

Contact Concerns and Considerations

A ‘Protect Lifeline iCampaign’ page has also been created to encourage people to engage their local representatives with concerns for Lifeline.

Click here to see the campaign letter and the simple steps to contact your local representatives by email:

www.ProtectLifelineNI.org

BACKGROUND

Lifeline is Northern Ireland’s regional 24/7 suicide prevention crisis helpline and counselling service. Lifeline is a unique crisis intervention service, benchmarked against leading international crisis lines since its launch in 2006. The current service model, available to the entire NI population has earned community confidence, ensuring every caller is provided with expert and compassionate support, tailored to their particular needs. Lifeline has evolved from nine years crisis service innovation, applied learning from Serious Adverse Incident Reviews, and national and international research. This field–leading crisis counselling helpline service is now in jeopardy.