What does the coalition mean for mental health?
Posted Thursday 13 May 2010
So the dust has (somewhat) settled, we have apparently entered into a new era of politics, and we’ve witnessed a rather surreal yet mesmerizing press conference in Downing Street garden, complete with birdsong.
A coalition government will no doubt bring additional stresses and strains than a traditional majority government would have - maybe they should sign up to our ‘Taking care of business’ campaign on mental health in the workplace for free tips on improving wellbeing and ensuring productivity!
But what this two-tone Government will mean for mental health is yet to be seen. Both Cameron and Clegg have signed up to our anti-stigma and discrimination campaign Time to Change. Both parties also committed to improving access to talking treatments in their recent manifestos. However, since the coalition was formed, very little has been said about health policy or the NHS. New Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has repeated the commitment to increase NHS spending in line with inflation. Yet, at the same time the need for efficiency savings has been heavily stressed.
What is far more worrying is the commitment to move further and faster on welfare reform, as outlined in the coalition agreement. Most striking is the commitment to immediately refer claimants on Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) who are facing the “most significant barriers to work” to a newly created welfare to work programme. This is despite wide recognition (from the charity sector at least), that the process which forms the bedrock of claimants’ assessments is fundamentally broken.
Let’s not forget, these are tough economic times and the recession has taken its toll on the mental health of the population. Now more than ever it’s vital that people are able to access the treatment and services which can help them towards recovery and enable them to remain in work or return to employment in the right way and at the right time.
What is crystal clear is that this coming Parliament will be extremely difficult both politically and economically. It will require hard work, determination, and resilient leadership to ensure that the right decisions, not the easy decisions, are made around mental health. Now that will be the true test of Cameron and Clegg’s claims to have created a new era of politics.
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns
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