I was excited to be speaking with many of our dedicated members, and many energised new members at the fantastic conference in Southport this past weekend. To my joy, I found that mental health is still very much a key focus for our Party.
In Coalition, thanks to Norman Lamb, Paul Burstow before him, and Nick Clegg as Deputy Prime Minister, government finally had a focus on Mental Health – something shamefully ignored by previous governments. We introduced the first ever waiting times for some areas of mental health, and enshrined “parity of esteem” in law – the requirement for the NHS to give equal consideration to mental and physical health when offering treatment.
Despite some light words from the Prime Minister, since the Lib Dems left office, mental health – as with the NHS and social care in general – has not had the proper funding it requires. This means the waiting times aren’t being met and the 2020 target is likely impossible to meet.
Daisy Cooper put forward a great motion to celebrate the NHS at 70 at Conference. Speakers followed with passionate stories about their call for the NHS to be protected and given the funding to fulfil its obligations. Indeed, only the LibDems are being honest about adding 1p to income tax in order to plug this funding gap, before seeking to introduce a dedicated Health and Care tax in the future.
Norman Lamb spoke with passion on how it’s an outrage for mental health to still be the Cinderella of our health service. Mohsin Khan talked about the horrors of people being sent hundreds of miles away from their homes just to gain a bed for treatment. Daisy then reminded us how the Lib Dems are the Party of the NHS.
I spoke about 1 issue – how the Lib Dems are passionate in talking about mental health, but how we perhaps are waiting for someone else to campaign on it.
I know we all have our priorities, based on the policies that interest us and the juggling the many varied priorities of our residents and constituents. But mental health is not in a silo. It affects young, middle-aged and older people. It cuts across economic backgrounds and matters in rural and urban areas. It is found in policy areas of housing, transport, justice, rough sleeping and homelessness. It’s interwoven with issues around drug misuse and, more recently, a big consideration in a growing number of workplaces.
I urge you to consider mental health in all of your campaigns. We cannot let the government get away with ignoring it, whilst claiming to care for mental health.
I’m proud to say the Liberal Democrat Health and Care Association is due to soon hold its first elections, and you can join, for free (details below) and help us campaign, but also receive advice on how you could campaign on Mental Health.
We must ensure that mental health is not forgotten by the government, the other parties, the voters and, to start with the easy group – the Liberal Democrats cannot forget either.
* *Lee Dargue is the PPC for Birmingham Ladywood, founded the LibDem Mental Health Association – which merged into the Health and Care Association, and works across the public, private and 3rd sectors on Mental Health campaigns.