Health group's fury at vandals

ORGANISATIONS which help people recovering from mental health problems have had to cut back on activities after being targeted by thieves and vandals.Staff at the Old Fox House Clubhouse, in Ipswich Street, Stowmarket, were said to have been reduced to tears when they found their minibus had had its windows smashed, seats ripped and bodywork dented.

By John Howard

ORGANISATIONS which help people recovering from mental health problems have had to cut back on activities after being targeted by thieves and vandals.

Staff at the Old Fox House Clubhouse, in Ipswich Street, Stowmarket, were said to have been reduced to tears when they found their minibus had had its windows smashed, seats ripped and bodywork dented.

It has now been written off and the clubhouse cannot afford to replace it.


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The Bridge House Clubhouse in Ipswich has also been targeted in recent weeks, with a minibus stolen from a car park in Ipswich. Both it and the Old Fox House Clubhouse offer training, work placements and social activities to rehabilitate people back into the community. Getting out and about is seen as an integral part of their recovery.

Following the minibus vandalism, organisers say the cost of getting people to a pantomime in Ipswich had vastly increased as they had to hire a coach.

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The loss also hit Fox Folk, a group of staff and members who used the van to transport themselves and their instruments to provide Christmas entertainments for the elderly and disabled children. They have had to cancel their shows this year.

Clubhouse member Linda Yaxley said: "I hope the criminals are proud of what they did. I hope they enjoyed themselves, because it has cost us dear.

"The outings were for people who really needed them. Some members have barely left their homes for three or four years and the trips were part of their recovery process. We cannot afford coaches all the time, so many do not go ahead.''

The Bridge House minibus was stolen from a secured public car park in Ipswich, where it was stored at night. The thieves used bolt croppers to remove the car park barrier and the bus was later found stripped out on a travellers' site in Norfolk.

The clubhouse faced a large taxi bill for getting members to their Christmas dinner and party. Acting manager Marion Sharpe said: "Our bus was shabby, but well loved and got us from A to B and we're desperate without it.

"Life at the clubhouse has become considerably limited. Not all our members are able to use public transport and it's impossible for group placements or visits to other clubhouses in the evenings."

Because the bus was old, the clubhouse will only receive a few hundred pounds in insurance money, not nearly enough to replace it.

Old Fox House and Bridge House clubhouses are run for people recovering from mental health problems by the Local Health Partnerships NHS Trust, based at Suffolk House, Ipswich, which provides mental health services in Suffolk.

n If you could help the organisations, please contact Linda Yaxley at Old Fox House Clubhouse, Stowmarket on 01449 774966 or Marion Sharpe, acting manager at Bridge House Clubhouse, Ipswich, on 01473 230115.

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