Posted Monday 15 October 2012
The last of this year's Party Conferences saw the Conservatives gather in Birmingham. As the main party of Government, this was a chance for us to talk to key Ministers and MPs about the policies they are implementing and the impact they are having on mental health, and to talk about our own campaigns.
It’s been really noticeable at this all this year's party conferences that MPs we've met are much better informed than they were a few years ago. This is partly due to the hard work of the Mind team and our many partners in mental health. It’s also due to the hundreds of individuals that contact their MPs and tell them about the reality of living with a mental health problem. We’re also seeing the real impact of the recent mental health debate in Parliament earlier this year where four MPs spoke openly about their experiences. This is still reverberating for Parliamentarians and we need to make sure we make the most of this increased awareness.
Our conversations with MPs were wide-ranging. We highlighted the risks of valued services closing, the need for excellent crisis care everywhere and the importance of timely access to treatment and support. It's increasingly clear that many MPs are still navigating their way around the changes to the NHS and don’t yet know what the changes will mean for the commissioning and delivering of mental health services.
Disappointingly, there was no mention of mental health by the new Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt in his speech. This makes him the only health lead not to mention mental health.
We also used our meetings to raise our deep concerns around welfare reform and the assessment of people claiming disability benefits. As you would expect, Conservative MPs do not tend to agree with our overall analysis of the welfare reform agenda, and are careful to toe the party line in discussions. But many of them are willing to admit that Atos is not doing a particularly good job (to say the least!), and they saw the merit in our arguments around additional medical evidence, assessors with mental health expertise, and fewer reassessments.
There are nearly three years until the General Election in 2015 (assuming all goes to plan for the coalition) but at this season of conferences it felt as though the election campaigns have already begun. So now is the time for us to shape those manifestos. As ever, we'll be asking for your thoughts. What would you like to see each party put in their manifesto?
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive
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