Mind welcomes SEU report as "step in the right direction towards combating injustices"
Posted Monday 14 June 2004
Government report looks at the right issues but financial commitment needs strengthening, says charity.
Mind, the leading mental health charity in England and Wales, has welcomed today's report from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's Social Exclusion Unit (SEU), hailing it as a step in the right direction towards ironing out some of the myriad inequalities faced by people with mental health problems.
The charity welcomed the report's focus on fighting stigma and making changes to allow people with mental health problems to benefit from the same life opportunities as anyone else, which, it says, echoes many of the priority issues raised by Mind over recent years. However, Mind called for funding commitments to be strengthened if the report's action points are to have a real impact on people's lives.
- Stigma and discrimination
Mind welcomed the Government's commitment to funding a sustained anti-discrimination programme, something which Mind's recent report Not alone? Isolation and mental distress cited as a clear national priority (1).
- The role of health and social care services in tackling social exclusion
Over two thirds of respondents to a recent Mind survey had in the previous two years been forced to stop using, or had been denied the use of, a helpful service (2). Mind therefore agrees that mental health services need to have a stronger focus on social inclusion, and thinks that the offer of an employment adviser should be extended to all people with mental health problems.
Mind agrees that employment plays a vital role in promoting self-worth for many people with mental health problems, and has produced a specialist Employers' Pack to help advise employers on creating a health working environment. The charity therefore welcomes the SEU report's recommendation around support for employers, but would like to see this extended to employees too. Mind has also campaigned on benefits for people with mental health problems, and would like to see benefits rules reviewed rather than simply clarified as the report recommends.
- Supporting families and community participation
Mind's report Not alone? Isolation and mental distress found that 84 per cent of people with mental health problems had felt isolated. Of these, 74 per cent cited relationship problems while 71 per cent cited a lack of close relationships as strong contributors to isolation. A total of 74 per cent said that support to make friends and contacts helped, or would help them.
- Getting the basics right
Mind welcomes the SEU's recommendations around improving guidance to housing authorities on lettings and stability, as well as improving access to legal and financial advice. Mind's legal advice service and MindinfoLine
already provide information to thousands of people on these areas every year, many of whom have been unable to access advice or support through ordinary channels. Mind would also like to see positive measures to combat NIMBYism in forthcoming anti-stigma programmes.
- Making it happen
Mind welcomes the proposals that responsibility be taken for combating social exclusion in mental health at ministerial level, and looks forward to seeing this translate into real change on the ground. The charity also welcomes the plans for an independent advisory group, but warns that it must be made up of the right people - including mental health service users - and given sufficient powers to influence the development of the action plan.
Richard Brook, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
"The SEU report has brought to the top of the policy agenda some of the desperately pressing issues facing people with mental health problems that we at Mind have been highlighting for years. Mental health discrimination infiltrates every area of life, denying many people jobs, mortgages, healthcare and even friendships and relationships."
"We look forward to seeing this report lead to some solid action from the Government, with effective funding strategies and long-term commitment, to give back the one in four people affected by mental health their rightful place in society."
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1. Not alone? Isolation and mental distress, Mind, May 2004, recommends that "Government must increase its commitments to anti-stigma activities in England and Wales, particularly among young people and in schools, to counteract the discrimination faced by people with mental health problems and to promote social inclusion."
2. Ibid. Over two thirds of respondents reported that during the preceding two years, they had to stop or had been denied the use of a service they had, or would have, found helpful.
The SEU report can be found at www.socialexclusionunit.gov.uk