In response to a rise in sectioning and an increase in the suicide rate, Labour called the first ever opposition day debate on mental health this afternoon. I was pleased to intervene in the debate and to vote in favour of my Party’s motion to secure better support for people with mental health problems.
In Southwark, we have a disproportionately high incidence of mental ill health. Some conditions affect 1 in 6 adults locally – and mental ill health accounts for about 25% of GP appointments. Psychoses are also disproportionately prevalent in Southwark – and local hospitals have experienced significantly higher admission rates as a result of mental health problems than elsewhere in the country.
Having worked on disability and health issues previously, and having immediate family with conditions including schizophrenia, I am keen to see the Government do more to tackle mental ill health.
Labour left office with a commitment to increase employment support for people with mental health problems, including under the Access to Work scheme. Access to Work helps people attain and retain work but the last five years have seen a drop in the number of people the scheme supports. The percentage of working age disabled people has also fallen – and the Government has chosen to reduce Disability Employment Advisors working from Jobcentre Plus by 20%.
Twinned with cuts to support the Government have specifically targeted people with mental health problems with benefit reductions. The coalition made the Work Capability Assessment a tougher process for this specific group – and are in the process of axing more than half a million disabled people from receiving Disability Living Allowance. This has contributed to ill health and even suicides for some people tragically.
Poor health service provision is also an issue. The impact is on the individual experiencing mental ill health, their families, the NHS more widely (especially through avoidable hospital admissions) and even the criminal justice system. The police often pick up the pieces when services fail – and the prison population includes a disproportionately high number of people with mental health problems.