Theresa May and Mental Health: Another U Turn?

The Prime Minister was praised earlier this month for speaking out on the issue of mental health, and the need to do more. But with the Conservative manifesto being released last week, a subtle but very significant withdrawal of one of Theresa May’s promises seems to have gone unnoticed.

On the 7th of May, the Prime Minister pledged to replace the outdated Mental Health Act, introduce mental health into the schools curriculum, and appoint 10,000 more mental health staff to the NHS.

The Conservative manifesto released last week refers to each of these areas, but, crucially, it only promises to recruit “up to” 10,000 mental health staff. A Conservative government could technically appoint just one more mental health professional over the next three years and still fulfil this pledge, something that would be disastrous for a country that has faced increasing pressure on mental health services.

It may seem pedantic, but this rewording makes the recruitment figure an aspiration rather than a promise. The significance of this can be best understood by considering the Conservative party’s recent track record when it comes to delivering on commitments to mental health.

The 2015 Conservative manifesto promised to increase mental health funding, ensure that there are adequate numbers of therapists “in every part of the country”, and “continue to take your mental health as seriously as your physical health”.

According to the King’s Fund, in 2015-2016, 40% of UK mental health trusts saw their budgets cut, and in March of this year, it emerged that £800 million set aside for mental health services was being redirected to other areas of the NHS. A number of clinical commissioning groups also announced cuts in mental health spending in April. Despite Conservative claims that legislation had ensured equal priority between mental and physical health, a report from the independent Mental Health Taskforce last year confirmed that there continues to be a disparity between mental and physical health services, in part due to the absence of maximum waiting times for mental health services.

I am very pleased that the Liberal Democrats are very clear on prioritising mental health and would ensure that waiting times for mental and physical health are the same.  We would also ring fence £1 bn (of the £6 bn to be gained for the NHS by putting a penny on income tax) for mental health.

In contrast, the fact that the Tory 2017 manifesto does not support the recruitment pledge that Theresa May made just a few days before the manifesto was released should be a huge warning sign and a harbinger of another effective u turn.

If we consider her own voting record, Theresa May has a checkered history when it comes to matters of health and welfare. May voted against providing disability and welfare benefits and guaranteed jobs for the unemployed, affecting groups at heightened risk of mental illness.

Theresa May’s refusal to rule out cuts to disability benefits, and controversy and u turns over social care manifesto promises, do nothing to suggest that she has great concern for segments of society especially affected by poor mental health.

 

The Tories’ heartless approach to social care

The water between the Conservative social care policy for social care, and our own approach–which would cap social care costs and put a penny on income tax to help pay for the NHS and social care–could not be more clear or more blue.

Perhaps the most surprising feature is the Tories’ complete abandonment of their flagship policy commitment since 2013 to implement a cap on lifetime care costs. (Yet another policy commitment added to all those 2015 manifesto pledges that have similarly been binned.  To think that people call the Conservatives competent is quite frankly a joke.)

The Conservative policy needs to be stopped before it is given any oxygen to thrive.  So I am pleased that Tim Farron is calling on everyone, regardless of political affiliation, to stop it.  You can read the text of his letter below, and I urge you to take action to stop this ill-advised policy that could harm so many people as soon as possible.

Strong and stable?  More like mean and heartless.  I am afraid that the Conservatives are taking the British public for granted, so sure are they of a landslide on 8th June.

Writing to the leaders of leading health and older peoples’ charities, Tim Farron said:

The Conservatives’ plan to fund social care which will force the sale of many more family homes when people die is heartless and punishes the frail and elderly, especially those with long-term degenerative illnesses such dementia, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis.

This plan is a choice. It is the wrong choice. It was devised without input from experts. It ignores advice from charities and care providers such as the organisation you lead. It flies in the face of the Sir Andrew Dilnot’s independent review of social care just a couple of years ago.

The measure of a Government is how they treat the most vulnerable in our society. I don’t think that the Conservatives are unaware of the impact of their plans but they chose to ignore it.

Every elderly person that needs care should receive it in the best place for them and not be fearful of mounting, limitless costs. I am determined that we ensure that Theresa May drops the so-called ‘dementia tax’ and implements a cap on the cost of social care.

Caring for our elderly must be above party politics and that is why I want to see anyone who opposes the Conservatives’ plans to come together to stop it.

We must resist this plan, challenge would-be Conservative MPs to reject and stop it.

As a first step, I am urging people to dementiatax.org.uk to sign up to help. I hope you will urge the supporters of your organisation to do the same. Together we can stop the so-called ‘dementia’ tax. 

Conservative plans will take lunches away from 15,282 children in North Yorkshire

 

15,282 schoolchildren in North Yorkshire will lose out on free lunches, under plans announced in the Conservative manifesto.

Free school lunches for pupils from reception to Year 2 were introduced by the Liberal Democrats in government, but Theresa May now plans to scrap them. The changes would cost families an average extra £480 a year for every child.

The Conservatives are also proposing to make older people pay for social care costs from the value of their own homes when they die. This means on average, families in Harrogate district would expect to see 62.5% of the value of their home spent on care costs.

Helen Flynn, Parliamentary Candidate for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Lib Dem) commented:  “This Conservative manifesto shows the nasty party is back.  Margaret Thatcher was known as the milk snatcher, it seems Theresa May will go down as the lunch snatcher.

“She is cynically snatching meals away from thousands of children in North Yorkshire, while the elderly receiving care in their own home will face a ‘Personal Death Tax’ charged against their home.

“Andrew Jones, the incumbent MP in our area, must now come clean over whether he will vote to take away free lunches from the children of hard-pressed families.  As he votes 100% with the Conservative party and is a member of the Government, I can only assume that he will.

“The Liberal Democrats will offer a brighter future by extending free school meals to all primary schools.

“We will stand up to Theresa May’s cold, mean-spirited Britain, protecting those that need the most help and fighting for more funding for our schools and hospitals.”

 

Notes 

Figures on the number of children per school and local authority benefiting from universal infant free school meals can be found here. Universal free school meals for infant pupils (up to Year 2) were introduced by the Liberal Democrats in coalition government. Currently the government subsidises lunches for infants by £2.30 – these changes will mean removing £480 subsidy per child, per year.

Under Conservative proposals, for the first time, many people who receive care at home will have their home taken into account, to meet the costs when they die. This will apply to the almost half a million people who receive domiciliary care in the UK. Figures on the share of the average family home expected to be spent on social care costs can be found here, based on calculations provided by Royal London

 

 

Where is the Conservative Manifesto?

 
With the postal vote due to be despatched on Monday 22nd May, I am calling on the Conservatives nationally to stop delaying the publication of their manifesto.  Phillip Hammond was on the Radio 4 Today programme this morning evading the question several times about the actual publication date, saying it would be out “very soon”.
It seems totally unfair to me that the Conservatives are not coming clean on what the headlines of their manifesto will be.  Postal voters need some time to assess manifestos side by side to compare and contrast what the major parties are promising.  Having sprung a snap election on the public, they are now playing for time before they make clear what their policies and priorities are.  That seems like having your cake and eating it and treating the voting public with disrespect.
The Liberal Democrat manifesto will be announced today at 6 pm, but several headline policies have already been announced. These include: putting a penny on income tax to ensure that the NHS is properly funded; providing £7 bn to schools to prevent the planned Tory cuts to school budgets; and creating a discounted bus pass for 16-21year olds, amongst many other policies.
The Conservatives reneged on many of their 2015 manifesto promises such as: electrification of the Midland mainline and Trans-Pennine routes; producing a budget surplus by 2020; and outspending Labour on the NHS.
There were so many broken promises from their 2015 manifesto, maybe that is why they are delaying the publication of their 2017 manifesto, because they know they can’t deliver policies to create the ’strong and stable’ government that Theresa May likes to advertise.
It seems there may be large sections which are unpalatable to the public, with a commitment to leaving the European Single Market being widely expected.  That would be disastrous for our country.  Really they must publish their manifesto this week.  Anything other than that time frame is completely unacceptable.

 

Green Party generously steps down in Harrogate & Knaresborough for the General Election

The political system urgently needs to modernise and ensure it represents everyone.  Otherwise people will continue to feel alienated from the political classes and the political system in general, as in many seats throughout the country their vote simply does not count.  Indeed one of the reasons why the EU Referendum attracted such a high turn-out was that for once everyone’s vote actually counted.

In addition, it is often the case nowadays that parties that have more in common end up in a situation where a different party is elected whose aims diverge significantly.

So I am grateful to the Green Party here in Harrogate & Knaresborough for standing down at this snap election.  Ukip had already stood down to give the Conservatives here a clearer run, forming a version of a ‘regressive alliance’.  So this is a very welcome move and is in tune with other ‘progressive alliances’ that have been announced throughout the country.

This snap General Election may just prove to be the beginning of a movement towards the over-due, desperately needed reform of the British political system if these short term alliances bear fruit.

Please find the joint press release below:

JOINT PRESS RELEASE FROM HARROGATE & KNARESBOROUGH LIBERAL DEMOCRAT AND GREEN PARTIES

12 MAY 2017

Green Party generously stands down in Harrogate & Knaresborough to give Liberal Democrats a stronger challenge against the Conservatives at the General Election on 8th June

The UK voting system of “first past the post” (FPTP) was designed for a two-party system.  As the political landscape has changed over time, and more parties have emerged, the FPTP system has meant that more and more people are becoming disillusioned with politics, as their vote often does not count. At every General Election since 1931, the FPTP system has delivered a Government chosen by less than 50% of voters.   This is at odds with a truly democratic system.  If the UK had a fairer voting system, such as proportional representation (PR), like most European countries, everyone’s vote would count.   The Conservative Party wants to keep FPTP, as it benefits only them.

Over recent years, as the disillusion with politics has set in, more and more people are asking why the ‘progressive’ parties, who have many areas of common interest, continue to fight against each other.  In this way, they split the progressive vote, and allow ‘regressive’ parties such as the Conservatives and Ukip to gain more influence.

Already at this snap General Election, Ukip has stood down in favour of Conservative candidates in scores of seats, as part of a “regressive alliance”, to give the Conservatives a greater chance of winning.  Ukip has also stood down here in Harrogate & Knaresborough.  So now a ‘progressive alliance’ between Liberal Democrats and Greens will offer voters a simpler choice if they are worried about a Conservative Government with an enlarged majority pursuing a Hard Brexit that would damage our economy.

A Conservative Government with an enlarged majority is not good for the country.  Their proposed cuts to the NHS, schools and welfare budgets would be disastrous for many families at a time when there is great uncertainty over the economy, given the Hard Brexit that the Conservatives are determined to pursue.  An effective, progressive opposition needs to be in place to hold such a Government to account.

Here, the current Conservative MP has voted 100% of the time with Government since his re-election in 2015, and he is demonstrably not standing up for the people he is supposed to represent.  It is obvious that his loyalties firmly lie with his party.  The shared hope of both the Liberal Democrats and Greens here in Harrogate & Knaresborough is that a Liberal Democrat MP can be elected to enter Parliament to represent constituents well and be an effective voice in opposition

This is not a coalition between Lib Dems and the Greens.  The two parties retain their own underlying philosophies, identities and policies.  However, their shared aims mean that at this General Election, a shake-up of the political system is needed to ensure that a progressive voice is heard more loudly.  Their shared aims as follows:

  • fight for a softer approach to Brexit which would mean the UK retaining access to the European Single Market
  • move to a more representative voting system where everybody’s vote counts
  • guarantee investment in vital public services and infrastructure
  • focus on green issues to ensure we have a sustainable energy system, both to combat climate change and to transition to an economy based on new technologies

 

ENDS

Lib Dems announce extra £5 mn of funding for mental health in Harrogate District

 

Last weekend, Liberal Democrat Leader Tim Farron and Shadow Health Secretary Norman Lamb unveiled a Five Point NHS and Care Recovery Plan to increase funding for health and social care services, including a penny on income tax to provide a £6 billion funding boost.  Approximately £20 mn of this total extra spending on the NHS would be spent in Harrogate District.

Today the Liberal Democrats announced that approximately £5 mn of this extra money would be ring-fenced as dedicated funding for mental health services in Harrogate District.

This would help to deliver on 12 key priorities, including improving waiting time standards for mental health care on the NHS and providing support for pregnant women and young people suffering from mental health problems.

The Liberal Democrats will also set out to end the inappropriate use of force against people with mental ill health, end out of area placements for mental health patients and prioritise national action to reduce the number of suicides.

The Liberal Democrats  pledge to spend £5 mn in Harrogate District on mental health is important as it demonstrates our commitment to ending the historic injustice against people with mental ill health.

Health, particularly mental health is a key issue on the doorstep. People want action, not just words and neither Labour nor the Conservatives have outlined how they will fund mental health services. .

We will invest in improving waiting time standards for mental health care in Harrogate district, end the scandalous use of force against people with mental ill health and prioritise national action to dramatically reduce the number of people who take their own lives.

The Liberal Democrats are the real opposition to the Conservatives, and the only party fighting for genuine equality for those who suffer from mental ill health.

 

 

Lib Dems announce £640million to protect school funding in Yorkshire

The Liberal Democrats have announced they would invest £640m more in schools and colleges in Yorkshire over the next parliament. The funding would include over £34m for North Yorkshire schools.

Schools across Yorkshire could lose more than £312m from their budgets under government funding reforms, according to the National Union of Teachers.

I am proud that the Liberal Democrats would reverse cuts to frontline school and college budgets, protect per pupil funding in real terms and ensure no school loses out from changes to funding arrangements.  This to me is really important, as it was education that brought me into politics and I believe that every child should have the best start in life.  Cutting school funding as the Conservatives would is simply not right.

Some £49m of the total funding pot would be spent in Yorkshire on protecting the Pupil Premium, introduced by the Liberal Democrats to help the most disadvantaged children.

It would amount to around £750,000 extra per school, enough to employ an estimated 2,500 teachers across the region.

Children across Yorkshire are being taught in overcrowded classes by overworked teachers – but the Tories are failing to act.

Under the Conservatives, funding per pupil is set to see the biggest cuts in a generation, while billions of pounds are being spent on divisive plans to expand grammars and free schools.

This extra £640m of funding would ensure no school and no child loses out.  The full costings for this policy will be in our manifesto–due out shortly.

We will reverse crippling Conservative cuts to school budgets and invest to ensure every child has the opportunity to succeed.

Only the Liberal Democrats can provide the strong opposition Britain needs to stand up for communities across Yorkshire.

 

Lib Dem five-point recovery plan for health and social care

As the General Election campaign gets under way in earnest, it is great to hear from Norman Lamb MP that our manifesto will include a five-point recovery plan for health–covering health, social care and mental health.  Here it is below:

  1. Introduce a 1% raise in income tax, generating £6bn a year
  2. Ring-fence ALL of this for the NHS and care, investing efficiently and effectively in social care, primary care, mental health and public health
  3. Consolidate all health and care taxes into a single, dedicated Health and Care Tax, showing on people’s payslips exactly what we spend it on
  4. Establish a cross-party health and care convention, consulting and working with patients, the public, NHS staff and care workers, to ensure our health and social care is sustainable and integrated
  5. Introduce an independent agency to monitor health and care budgets, which would report every three years on how much money the system needs to flourish.

We are the only party guaranteeing money for the NHS–money that is desperately needed.  Patients are lying on trolleys in hospital corridors, urgent operations are being cancelled and the elderly are being denied the care they need.

The Conservatives continue to savage public services with cuts.  Maybe they will perform headline-grabbing u-turns on public service funding as the campaign gets under way to gain votes.  But a leopard does not change its spots and their record so far on cutting public services speaks for itself.

I honestly don’t have a clue what Labour are proposing on health.  In-fighting and implosion seem to be all they are offering, sadly.  It is sad that Labour have come to this, because we desperately need an effective opposition in our country to have a democracy that functions well and does “what it says on the tin”.  At the moment we simply do not have an effective opposition.

The Lib Dems are the opposition and policies such as our five-point recovery plan for the NHS offer a credible alternative to the never-ending, zealous cuts and austerity that are all the Tories can offer.

 

 

 

We need to think again about HS2–before it is too late

As the billions of pounds that a hard Brexit is going to cost the country continue to hog the airwaves, there is another massive act of political madness, projected to cost at least £70 billion, that is falling under the radar.

The mission statement for HS2, as described by Andrew McNaughton, Technical Director of HS2 Ltd, when giving evidence to the HS2 Select Committee on 30th November 2015, is “….to deliver hugely enhanced capacity and connectivity between our major conurbations”.

However, on a cost benefit analysis, it fails massively on both connectivity and capacity.  It is very clear that before this once in several generations major infrastructure project can be given the final green light there must be a technical review of HS2.  Even the Daily Mail considers HS2 to be a “totem to political vanity” and “a monstrous waste of money”.

Evidence I have seen of an alternative project—HSUK–shows that for at least £20 billion less investment, an alternative network of new high speed and upgraded rail lines can deliver far more connectivity and capacity, and, crucially, deliver far more benefits to regions in the north.

Better Value:

  • Costs £20bn less than existing plans (HS2 & HS3)
  • Has 200 miles less railway to maintain
  • Provides 48% journey time savings on journeys between the top 33 cities and _major airports

Better Connected:

  • Makes 92% of journeys between cities faster, compared to 13% for existing plans (HS2 & HS3)
  • Allows high speed services to extend on to the existing network
  • Links directly to Heathrow and HS1 whilst connecting directly all major UK cities

Greener:

  • Saves 600 million tonnes of CO2 – essential for climate change commitments
  • Makes use of existing transport corridors such as the M1
  • Avoids route through Chilterns AONB and other important and tranquil  rural areas
  • Needs less tunneling, less spoil, less energy and less concrete than existing plans
  • Uses city centre stations without need for cars to access parkway stations
  • Includes a national rail freight network

Smarter:

  • Improves regional rail across the UK
  • Integrates with existing rail services
  • Gives higher return on investment, and lessens need for subsidies to existing routes
  • Provides extra capacity, with 4 tracks to the Midlands (existing plan has only 2)

Find out more about the alternative plan at  www.highspeeduk.co.uk.  This is an expertly researched, technically sound project that really would deliver the benefits that we need to see in rail infrastructure that would finally drag the UK into the 21st century.

This is just the kind of issue I would love to get my teeth firmly into, if I am successful at this General Election.   The lid needs lifting on why HS2 will not deliver on its stated aims and is a waste of taxpayers’ money.