Lib Dems listen to your concerns. And commit.
Posted Friday 28 September 2012
We asked you which mental health issues mattered most to you right now. And you told us that the biggest changes you needed were better mental health services and a fair benefits system; these were having the most impact on your life.
Armed with this information, we headed off to the Liberal Democrat conference. This was the third Lib Dem conference since they became part of the coalition in 2010, and the first since the reshuffle. We met many MPs, including former mental health Minister Paul Burstow, his successor Norman Lamb, and Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb. We told them about the huge challenges you’re dealing with each and every day as you struggle to get the support you deserve.
We asked MPs which mental health issues were important to their constituents. It seems your experiences are mirrored across the country: MPs reported that people want better access to services, changes to the benefits system to make it fair, help with employment issues and high quality crisis care. At least two MPs told us about constituents who desperately needed help but couldn’t find the right kind of support. Every MP knew about ATOS and the work capability assessment (WCA) challenges, and we sensed a growing level of disquiet amongst Lib Dems around this issue.
Each year, there is a formal debate at the Lib Dem conference and this can influence which issues the party fights for. We were really pleased that mental health was chosen as one of the issues to be debated, and there was a particular focus on the inequalities faced by people from black and minority ethnic communities who have mental health problems. Delegates stood up to speak about their own experiences and those of their constituents, and went on to pass a motion that called for better access to mental health to be made a priority. Norman Lamb spoke passionately about his own commitment to mental health - a good sign for the next couple of years as we fight your corner and urge change.
Two years into coalition, it seems the Lib Dems are clearer about what they can and can’t do. You could hear people singing the “sorry” song that’s been made famous everywhere following the Lib Dem’s U-turn on tuition fees; it was almost cathartic. But I get the distinct impression that they now know what they want their legacy to be - and improving mental health is a clear part of it.
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