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Mental Health UK silent on its sponsorship from ISG PLC

Update: Mental Health UK have now contacted us - see below for the charity's response.

During Mental Health Week, 30 Golden Lane Estate residents shared the impact the COLPAI construction site was having on their mental health in a moving open letter.

And just as people shared their upsetting experiences of the "torture", "intolerable stress" and "anxiety" caused directly by the behaviour of the site's construction firm, ISG PLC, which was leaving them "heartbroken", "abandoned" and "kettled", ISG had applied to Islington Council to further extend works until 9pm in the evening.

Incredibly, ISG sponsors a mental health charity, Mental Heath UK. We wrote to the charity's Chief Executive Brian Dow on 25 May to draw his attention to the letter, and suggested he might want to reconsider ISG's sponsorship until the company could demonstrate it took mental health seriously.

Sadly, as yet we have yet to receive a reply. 

 

Dear Mr Dow

I am writing on behalf of residents of the Golden Lane Estate in London to bring to your attention the serious impact your sponsor ISG PLC is having on our mental health.

ISG PLC has been contracted by the City of London to build a school and social housing on land directly adjoining our estate. Residents welcome much needed social housing and expect a reasonable level of disturbance.

However since ISG PLC began working on the ‘COLPAI’ project in December 2018, the company's impact on residents, 50% of which are social tenants (including those elderly and vulnerable) has been severe:

  • ISG is subjecting residents to extreme levels of noise for up to 10 hours each day. Our flats are all single glazed yet works such as sawing metal often take place less than 10m away from our homes, without mitigations such as acoustic barriers or perceptible effort to observe agreed ‘reduced impact hours’ as recommended in the construction management plan. Those of us with babies are seeing damaging impacts from reduced sleep for both parent and baby. Noise monitoring on one block, Hatfield House, was secretly terminated by ISG to avoid an objective data record of the noise. 

  • Dust, fumes and other pollution from ISG’s works are making residents ill.  Residents (including those with pre-existing mental health conditions such as paranoia, agoraphobia, medical anxiety and depression) are unable to open their windows during the day, with many reporting an increase in respiratory symptoms. Windows and outdoor spaces are covered in grime, with ISG ignoring its commitment before works started to clean windows every 2 months. (Windows have been cleaned just once 7 months ago, after an intervention from a local MP.)

  • Residents are imprisoned inside their own homes. ISG’s decision to recommence construction during the lockdown has made life miserable for the majority of residents unable to leave home. Trying to work or homeschool our children above the noise, with windows we are unable to open in warm weather, is intolerable. Residents with health conditions are frightened by workers not practicing social distancing within metres of flats. We understand that the City of London would like to suspend the site until the lockdown is over, but ISG’s view is that this would breach their contract and has ordered its workers back on site.

  • In full knowledge of the above, and during Mental Health Awareness week, ISG PLC applied to Islington Council to extend the site’s opening hours further by an additional four hours a day to 9pm. Thankfully this application, which would have subjected residents to up to 13 hours of noise and fumes and risked further disturbance to young children at bedtime, has been turned down for the time being.

Your sponsor’s repeated disregard of concerns raised has led to residents writing an open letter during Mental Health Week to highlight the toll ISG is having on our mental health, which is attached for your information. It is impossible not to be moved by this letter, which contains testimonials from 30 residents. Local MP Nickie Aiken agreed, and said the letter “really provides very powerful testimony … the concerns from residents about their wellbeing is particularly poignant.”

Based on the above, you will appreciate our concerns that ISG PLC is an unsuitable sponsor for Mental Health UK and risks damaging the reputation of your charity. We would like to kindly request that you suspend ISG’s sponsorship until the company:

1) can demonstrate it will take the mental health of Golden Lane Estate residents neighbouring its construction site seriously

2) puts in place reasonable actions that will reduce the significant harm it is causing to residents' mental health.

We would be happy to put you in contact with neighbours who can share the toll that ISG is having on their lives, so you can hear directly of the impact of your sponsor’s actions.

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Comment by Paul Drinkwater on June 6, 2020 at 11:22

Update: Response from Mental Health UK

It took the above to get a response, and in summary it's "Sorry, but we're not really interested in the behaviour of our sponsor ISG PLC, as they are paying us £130,000. Have you tried contacting them?"

Perhaps it's understandable that the charity wouldn't want to risk an awkward conversation with its sponsor at a time when charities are struggling for cash.

But it is a disheartening brush-off nonetheless. If the charity's partnership team had read the testimonies of 30 residents whose mental health is being affected by its sponsor, they would have understood that, yes, we have contacted ISG directly to solve the matter, to no serious response.

I am sure Mental Health UK does a lot of good work. But the "40 years of advice, information and support" for "people affected ... mentioned on its website is, perhaps, like so many things during the coronavirus outbreak, on hiatus.

--

Thank you for your email. We are truly sorry to hear about yours and your neighbours’ experience and dissatisfaction with the COLPAI project. 

Our partnership with ISG plc came about at the beginning of last year when colleagues voted in favour of supporting Mental Health UK for the next three years. Since then, colleagues from ISG plc have raised over £130,000 to enable us to support more people affected by mental illness. We are also working to create better mental health awareness throughout the whole of the organisation through series of training and campaigns.

As above, we are really sorry to hear about your concerns and if you would like us to share your communications with ISG plc then we can do, however we strongly suggest that you contact them directly to resolve the matter.

Kind regards, 

The Partnerships Team at Mental Health UK

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