Louise Rubin, who works in our campaigns team, reflects on the last year in mental health and sets out her teams ambitions for 2017.
Every year my team writes a blog, setting out what we’ve achieved through your support, and what we’ll focus on next.
I was actually on maternity leave for most of 2016, but coming back to work after a long break gave me an interesting perspective on how things changed – and lots did change.
It’s not so much that the issues we work on are different; we’re still fighting for more funding for mental health services, for shorter waiting times, better crisis services, and a benefits system that actually supports people.
But the way that we campaign - the tools we use and the people we need to influence - have moved on.
What’s changed this year
Our audience - Who we need to influence has become even more complicated. When I first joined Mind, our campaigning work was primarily aimed at the Government, MPs and Assembly Members.
It’s now more complex as decisions on care and support are made locally and within ‘arm’s length bodies’ such as NHS England and Public Health England, and in Wales, Health Boards.
It means we have to talk to many more people about the changes we want to see. The voice of local campaigners has become more and more important, so we’re going to need your help more than ever.
Our profile - People are MUCH more interested in mental health. It’s been getting more attention for a while now, but I think we reached new heights in 2016. I remember sitting at home with the baby, watching the new Prime Minister make her first speech in July, and low and behold she talked about mental health! This would have been unimaginable a few years ago. Even the Royal Family are getting involved.
And, having returned to work, I am delighted to see that we have an army of campaigners writing to MPs and Assembly Members, signing petitions, and sharing things on Twitter and Facebook. We’re going from strength to strength in that respect.
The numbers – It’s nerdy, but the words data, transparency and accountability fill me with a strange excitement! I have worked at Mind for quite a few years now, and on the whole it has been difficult to find clear, robust data on things such as how long people wait for therapy, or the amount of time they spend in hospital beds.
But in October the first mental health ‘dashboard’ was launched. It means that from now on, we’ll have data for every area on how the local NHS is performing on mental health.
Not all the data is there yet, it’s early days, but we’ll soon be in a much better position to understand exactly what’s working or not working, and campaign for the changes we need.
So with all that in mind, what did we do in 2016 and what’s coming up next?
Last year’s successes and our plans for next year
Benefits and back to work support - We’re still fighting to improve the benefits system and back-to-work support and while we’ve seen some hugely worrying changes such as cuts to ESA and thousands of people with mental health problems losing out in the shift from DLA to PIP, there have been some successes.
Thanks to your campaigning, 11,000 staff at Job Centres will receive mental health training, and the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has acknowledged that sanctions can be harmful to people with mental health problems and that the WCA needs significant improvement.
In October, the Work, Health and Disability Green Paper was launched, setting out the Government’s current thinking on these issues.
The fact that the govt is putting together this green paper is promising, as it gives us the opportunity to push for radical changes for people with mental health problems.
We’ll be doing a huge piece of work on this 2017 to make sure the Government understands the pain and suffering the current benefits system is causing and how desperately it needs to be reformed.
New plans for mental health care - In February the Five Year Forward View for mental health (FYFV) was published. It sets out a clear plan for transforming mental health care in the NHS and beyond.
These has specific timelines, targets and commitments have been agreed by Government, NHS England, and the many other organisations that play a role in mental health care .
We know that this transformation is desperately needed, and we’re working hard to ensure the recommendations are delivered. This work will step up in the New Year, and this is where the data that I talked about above will come into its own – we’ll be able to scrutinise the progress that local commissioners have made against the FYFV recommendations.
We plan to share that data far and wide to really put the pressure on so, expect regular emails from us on this subject if you’re signed up.
Primary care - In January we launched our major campaign to improve the care GPs provide.
It started with a leaflet and animated guide to help people talk to GPs about their mental health, as well as a guide for local commissioners.
More recently, we’ve been calling for much better training on mental health for GPs and practice nurses.
An amazing 17,000 of you signed a letter to Jeremy Hunt on this and we hope to meet with him early in the New Year to follow up.
Life support - We also launched our new campaign to protect ‘life support’ services – the support or advice that you might receive on housing and benefits, debt and finances, or combating loneliness.
These services can make a huge difference to people’s ability to stay well, yet they are under threat.
Almost 3,000 of you joined us in calling on local councils to protect life support services as they set next year’s budgets, and we’ll be doing much more work on this campaign in 2017.
Not forgetting - We’ve been in front of Parliament – presenting our views on issues such as employment support, the sustainability of the NHS, and suicide prevention.
We’ve campaigned to end the use of police cells for people experiencing a mental health crisis.
And thanks to you, nearly 9000 copies of our manifesto were sent out to Welsh Assembly election candidates, which helped ensure mental health is prioritised in the Welsh Programme for Government.
As ever, there is so much to do and we are never complacent about the battle we’re facing to improve mental health support.
But we certainly won’t give up and hope you’ll continue to help us in our work.
If you’re not already, make sure you sign up to receive our campaigner’s newsletter to keep up to date with all we’re doing.