Our year in parliament
Posted Friday 23 December 2011
It's been a very busy 12 months for everyone working in Mind's Parliamentary team. Here's a round up of their progress in 2011.
As the Government’s programme of sweeping reforms to the NHS and benefits system got under way, our supporters and service users told us they felt under attack and anxious about the future. So we declared ourselves Mental Health Defenders!
Our fight took us to the Commons, the Lords and the political party conferences, calling for improvements to the Health and Social Care and Welfare Reform Bills, gathering support for the Mental Health Discrimination Bill and promoting mental health awareness wherever we could.
In January, the Health and Social Care Bill proposed drastic reforms to the way health care is commissioned and delivered. Since its introduction we’ve been pushing for a guarantee that those who commission health services understand key mental health issues and prioritise mental health just as much as physical health.
We’ve run seminars for Peers and MPs to get our message across, and issued briefings to Parliamentarians as the Bill progressed through Parliament.
The Welfare Reform Bill followed in February and proposed a drastic remodelling of benefits and tax credits. We’ve been fighting for a fairer benefits system for several years and the introduction of this Bill gave us an opportunity to ramp up the level of our campaign and ensure mental health stays high on the agenda.
Our amendments have focused on inserting checks and balances to the new sanctions system, overturning the one year cap on Employment and Support Allowance, and making sure Personal Independence Payments (replacing the Disability Living Allowance) will be available to people with mental health problems.
When both these bills reach their final stages in January 2012, we’ll be there, continuing to lobby for amendments. It's been a very difficult fight and although the Government have made next to no concessions, we're determined to keep pushing.
In November, after a very busy party conference season - we introduced our crisis care campaign to key politicians. Charles Walker MP kindly arranged a Parliamentary debate to mark the launch of our campaign and Minister Paul Burstow agreed to work with us over the coming months to improve acute and crisis care services.
Finally, one of the highlights of our year came courtesy of Lord Stevenson of Coddenham who we helped table a Private Members’ Bill in April.
If passed, the Mental Health Discrimination Bill will remove four pieces of legislation that discriminate against people with mental health problems. These reforms are long overdue.
Our work supporting Lord Stevenson with his Bill has been met positively from all sides and has the support of Government. We will continue our efforts to make sure that the Bill passes in 2012.
So after a dynamic and challenging year, we’re taking a short break, just long enough to wear seasonal paper hats and enjoy a glass of mulled wine. But we’ll be back in January refreshed and ready to fight on!
Seasons greetings to all, and thank you so much for all your support.
Louise Kirsh, Paul Spencer & Vicki Ensor, Mind's Parliamentary team
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