To allow mental health services to be 'single parents', as Matt Muijen recommends (Community Spirit, 21 May), is to condemn service users to a continuation of the nightmare that is much of current mental health provision in the inner city: disconnected services, dispirited staff and a blame culture in the health services that means that social workers, housing staff and advocates are the problem - those outside who can so easily be demonised.

Single-mindedness and single parenthood are precisely the wrong qualities to make the improvements that are so desperately needed in the provision of mental health services.

The constant yearning for simple, singular, linear solutions represents a reluctance to accept the multiple legitimate interests in mental health provision.

Service users, carers, community groups, schools, the police, probation services, housing departments, faith communities and artists all have a valid interest. To deny this is to limit our chances of ever creating positive pathways to health for mental health service users.

Working with others is extremely difficult when there are conflicting interests and tiresome when people are clearly at cross-purposes. But this is the reality that service users have to cope with, whether service providers like it or not. It is often the need to integrate different and conflicting personal experiences that engages a good deal of service users' energies. The service providers must engage structurally and organisationally with this very same drive.

Rather than yearning for single parenthood, I would suggest that Matt Muijen should be seeking to create extended families, where responsibility can be taken, held and shared.

Working laterally across services and sectors is difficult and demands enormous patience, but it is the only way that promises healthy outcomes for services themselves, the professionals within them and certainly for users and their supporters.

Mental health services are one member of a family that rightly includes a rich mix of other relatives.

It behoves us to find ways to remain purposeful while evolving viable ways to work together in the wide and varied interests of mental health service users.

We need to be thinking about processes, about learning how to relate to one another - family conferencing offers a very promising model.

Do not let us give up on working together across our differences. Diversity is a principle of life.

Elizabeth Bayliss

Hackney Council Voluntary Service

London E8