James Morris is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Mental Health, and is MP for Halesowen and Rowley Regis.
Our progress on mental health policy proves that this government has compassionate conservatism at its core
Conservatives have always been the party of social justice, a party that has tackled the pressing social problems of each generation and a party that has improved social inequality. Our Party put the Disability Discrimination Act on the statute book; a Conservative Prime Minister laid the foundations to provide education for disabled children, and this One Nation government has seen the number of disabled people in work by over 152,000 in the last year.
One of societies biggest challenges now is mental ill-health, and we are leading the way in facing up to this challenge.
The independent Mental Health Taskforce has spent the last year carrying out a root and branch analysis of mental health care provision in the UK, to find out exactly where improvement is needed. It has now reported back, offering 52 separate recommendations to implement by 2020.
David Cameron has made two speeches on mental health during the past month and announced a raft of new money including £1 billiom of investment, targeted support for new mums and the first-ever waiting time targets for teenagers with eating disorders. Plans include £290 million of new investment over the next five years to provide mental healthcare for new mums, £247 million to invest in liaison mental health services in emergency departments, over £400 million to enable 24/7 treatment in communities as a safe and effective alternative to hospital and enlarged services to help teenagers with eating disorders; anorexia kills more than any other mental health condition.
The Prime Minister has demonstrated a clear commitment that this Government is prepared to do what it needs to do in order to improve the care and livelihoods of those suffering from mental ill-health and their families. It’s not an easy job, it will mean some very difficult decisions, investment and a laser-like cross government focus. Mental health has far-reaching consequences across the justice system, education, schools, healthcare, hospitals, sport, employment, welfare – the list is endless. It’s a challenge that requires every department to think about what they are doing, and what must be changed for the better.
The last few days have been difficult for the Government, and particularly for the Party. It would be a tragedy if our reforming zeal and the important changes we are making became lost in a sea of negative internally-generated noise. The 2010-15 Parliament proved that we are social reformers – education and welfare being prime examples. But don’t let anyone try and re-write history by saying that the Liberal Democrats brought out the best in us. This parliament will ensure that education reform is cemented into place and bring about considerable social mobility, our continued welfare reform will see even more people in work, taking a step closer to our plans for full employment and also, importantly, protect the most vulnerable in society, our prison reforms prove that we are committed to tackling reoffending rates and improving prison conditions, and the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to mental health policy will make parity esteem a reality and breakdown generations of stigma.
As our work in advancing the cause of mental hjealth shows we have a record to be proud of and are a Party whose history and future is rooted in social justice and compassion. We must resist the temptation to be distracted from our course. The work of government must continue, and our ideas of compassionate conservatism must shine through: the one in four adults and one in ten children currently suffering with a mental illness are relying on us.