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Plaid Cymru view on mental health

Monday, 05 June 2017 Rhun ap Iorwerth

We sent our manifesto to all parties in the upcoming General Election and asked them to write a blog about how they will approach mental health if they form the next government. Here's what Plaid Cymru had to say.

"Mental health is significantly underfunded and it has long been under-represented in political discourse."

It is something that political parties are slowly redressing but Plaid Cymru considers this a matter of urgency.

When a service has been underfunded for so long, making it fit for purpose is a difficult task. The level of investment in facilities and staff that is required to make our mental health services fit for purpose is unlikely to be made available by the UK Government to the Welsh Government through the block grant under the Tories’ austerity agenda. It must be a priority for all Welsh politicians to ensure the Tories are forced to change their attitude.

It's only by stating the scale of the problem that we can place the pledges and commitments of other parties into perspective. Often in an election campaign sums of money are bandied about devoid of context but for mental health we don't even have that. It's all very well committing to ring fencing spending on a service, but the baseline at which this money is ring fenced is too low. When substantial investment is needed, such a commitment is just a start.

People are still waiting too long for treatment. They are still barred from careers due to prejudice.  They are still being torn from their families because Labour’s preferred option in Wales is to outsource specialist services to Tory England.

Poor performance remains endemic in Wales. Take Child and Adolescent Mental Health services as an example. In 2011, when the service regularly received numerous critical reports, just 42% of extremely vulnerable children received treatment within four weeks. By January 2015 that number had declined to a shocking 26% before a small improvement leading to 30% of children seen within four weeks in January this year. This minor improvement, important though it is, is not sufficient.

Given the poor level of performance of services in Wales we felt we had no option but to demand extra funding for mental health services as part of our budget deal with the Labour Welsh Government. Our extra £20 million will help but we know it's just a start.  We also secured specialist services for eating disorders which will mean vulnerable people are not estranged hundreds of miles from their parents.

Whilst Plaid Cymru believes that mental health requires major investment, there are some positive, incremental steps we can make to help those in need - pledges we can afford under the current spending envelope available to the Welsh Government.

"Plaid Cymru supports the ‘Time to change’ campaign against prejudice and discrimination towards those with mental health problems."

There has been a 4.7% increase in positive public attitudes towards mental health since the campaign launched in 2012 and we need to build on the campaign to ensure that figure is improved.

We want to see timely access to good quality mental health services and mental and physical health needs to be treated equally. We will continue to call for increased funding, over and above what we have already secured and we will fight for improved access to trained counsellors and therapists in the community.

We will ensure that every community has reasonable access to provision of emergency mental health care beds and no police cell should be used for this purpose.

Plaid Cymru will also fund research into additional therapeutic models of treatment to widen choice and take away the ‘one size fits all’ approach to treatment, in particular looking at the contribution that access to art, green spaces and sport can make.

We have a long way to go to ensure mental health is treated with the same urgency as physical health and people who are currently waiting years from first symptom to specialist support need politicians to realise this and not make false promises under fake pretences.

They have been left with a future of zero hour contracts, endless austerity and low wages. So the very least we owe them are pledges that we will improve and invest what we can, but we also won't pretend we've climbed the summit when all we've done is leave base camp.

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