Nicole is one of the campaigners who came to our event in parliament this week, as we called on MPs to ensure that plans to improve mental health support over the coming years are met. After blogging for us earlier in the week and taking over our Instagram for the day, here she rounds it all up and writes about her day at the House of Commons.
I’m back from Mind’s excellent ‘Raising The Bar’ event at parliament and I keep having to pinch myself – I can’t believe they let me in! I’m joking of course, but that thought keeps whizzing around in my head.
I haven’t fully processed the afternoon’s events yet – not to mention talking about mental health with Iain Dale on LBC earlier in the week after they saw my first blog – but it was a real pleasure to meet everyone and have such a frank and open discussion with MPs, local Mind staff, volunteers and campaigners. It’s exactly these kinds of events and conversations that I think, with policy changes and increased funding, will move things forward.
I was able to voice my concerns about the massive lack of funding as well as ‘my wishlist’ for mental health.
Speaking at the event were Jackie Doyle Price - Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health (Care and Mental Health), Barbara Keeley - Shadow Cabinet Minister for Mental Health and Social Care, and from Mind’s side: Sophie Corlett, Director of External Relations and CEO Paul Farmer. I had the chance to chat to Jackie after her speech. She'd read my earlier blog and I was able to voice my concerns about the massive lack of funding as well as ‘my wishlist’ for mental health, which is broadly as follows:
- Increased and ring-fenced mental health funding
- Research and funding for prevention and early intervention measures
- Quicker and easier access to treatment
- A wider choice of treatment and the ability to choose your treatment
- Continuation and increased measures to end the stigma around mental health (for instance in schools and in the workplace)
- Fair DWP work capability assessments and cancellation of PIP changes
While I remain sceptical about funding (see my last blog for some figures) I was heartened by what seemed Jackie’s genuine interest in improving mental health support. She did also say that the Government needs to manage expectations around funding and I agree. But moreover, if money is promised then it should be delivered. That’s why the mental health budget should not just be increased but also ring-fenced – we need security and reality, not empty pledges and rhetoric. Jackie told me to keep shouting about mental health and holding the Government to account and I meant it when I said that I will!
We also had regional table discussions, and on our South East table there was a mix of staff and service users from local Minds, volunteers, campaigners and MPs. They included Rosie Duffield (Labour, Canterbury), Alan Whitehead (Labour, Southampton West), Richard Benyon (Conservative, Newbury), Robert Courts (Conservative, Witney), and a representative from Michael Fallon’s office (Conservative, Sevenoaks). Around 50 MPs from across England and Wales attended the event in total, but while I understand that many have lots of commitments I am really disappointed that there wasn’t a single MP from across Sussex. Nonetheless the conversation flowed and I can definitely see some of these MPs taking the points raised forward in their constituencies. The key issues facing other areas in the region include:
- Lack of crisis care
- Low funding/cuts and re-routing of money
- Short-lived initiatives
- Poor cohesion between services and departments
- Lack of awareness of available services and how to access them
- Inadequate treatment provision (mainly around choice and length of provision)
With the exception of crisis care I would say that Brighton and Hove, where I live, shares these issues and I will raise them with my MP. It was lovely to meet the others on our table and hear their stories - our shared experiences reinforce the need for change. I really hope that this is the start of that change.
I would also like to thank Mind for hosting this event, everyone who attended and everyone who followed along on Twitter and Instagram. It was my first time in parliament but hopefully it won’t be my last!