Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Who cares about mental health?

The mental health charity Mind issued a report this week on the quality of mental health prevention care in England. This report arose from a freedom of information request they submitted to all the 152 local authorities in England. Of these, 86 authorities complied and responded.

It was during the NHS reforms of April 2013 that responsibility for mental health care was moved from local Primary Care Trusts to local authorities.

The report concluded that on average just 1.4 per cent of public health budgets are spent on mental health care! Now you don't need to have a medical background to realise that this is woefully inadequate. Some areas don't even plan to spend a single penny on mental ill-health prevention.

According to the Time to Change campaign, which is a national movement to end mental health discrimination and stigma led by the Rethink Mental Illness and Mind charities; One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in any given year.

That 1.4 percent of public health spending equates to a total of £40 million annually,So compare that figure to these annual spending amounts:
  • £76 million on increasing physical activity
  • £160 million on anti-smoking initiatives
  • £671 on sexual health initiatives
The cost of mental ill-health to the nation is vast - it is estimated that mental health difficulties cost England approximately £100 billion annually. This is through lost working days, benefits, lost tax revenues and the cost of treatment.

It was eight years ago; October 2008, that David Cameron came out with his famous quote: "the NHS is safe in my hands,"

Surely mental health care in England is worth more attention and money than this?

Friday, 17 October 2014

Cameron forgives Freudian slip

So now we know what Lord Freud really thinks of people with disabilities. Lord Freud is the Welfare Reform minister. He addressed a fringe meeting at the Tory Conference. This gave him the opportunity to explain to his audience what kind of reforms he had in mind for people with disabilities: in an answer to a question he agreed that some people with disabilities were "not worth" the minimum wage and should be paid £2 an hour.

Less than 24 hours later some lackey composed, on his behalf, a fulsome apology. This was on the orders of David Cameron. Dame Anne Begg MP who herself uses a wheelchair said he should "consider his position". If Cameron had any gumption he'd have kicked him out of the Cabinet straight away!

Baron Freud has got form for this - being a completely tactless, rich bastard. He was the man who originally coined the phrase "lifestyle benefit claimant",  he has also denied any link between cuts and people using a growing number of food banks.

Try telling that to the Trussell Trust who have launched over 400 food banks. They have seen an almost three-fold increase in the numbers using them in the twelve months from 2012-13 to 2013-14. This total was over 900 000 people. Chris Mould the Chairman of the Trussell Trust describes these figures as "the tip of the iceberg".

Then you've got Cameron boasting in the Commons about the lowest unemployment since 2008. Now that's all very well but this information comes with a caveat: everybody knows their living standards have declined; energy prices are sky high, a report by Which this week tell us that energy costs have risen by an average of £410 in ten years, that is 52 per cent over and above inflation. Then there are pay freezes for the public sector workers, On Monday this week there was  public sector workers strike for 24 hours in protest at this. This resulted in 200 000 PCS (Public and Commercial Services Union) workers demonstrating nationwide.

So the unemployment figures have gone down but this is illusory when you consider the numbers working part-time, zero hours contracts...

If we were to believe David Cameron everything here in the garden here at UK PLC is rosy, George Osborne is a fantastic Chancellor.

Then there is the Child Poverty Map published this week by the End Child Poverty campaign, this is published annually. On this map you can see the areas most blighted. It is broken down into Parliamentary constituencies, then in to wards for better focus. Ten of most deprived constituencies are in London.

The aim of the End Child Poverty campaign is to eradicate child poverty by 2020 this is something often trumpeted by David Cameron. However it seems this government is failing. The Institute of Fiscal Studies who are an independent research institute, have warned the government that by the time of the General Election in May 2015 the numbers of children classified as living in poverty will have risen by 400 000. They go further; they calculate that by 2020 the figure will have increased by 1 million.

David Holmes of the End Child Poverty Group said: "We are concerned that this draft strategy as it stands, falls short of what is required to guarantee a reduction in child poverty and is just not radical enough to meet the goal of ending child poverty. Tackling child poverty requires bold action across wider society, for example to tackle low pay, unaffordable rents and crippling childcare costs."

I don't think this is anything for Mr Cameron to brag about.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Lies, posturing, defections, elections and resignations

So it is the conference season again, oh joy.

The Labour conference passed by with little comment apart from the fact Ed Milliband forgot his lines and subsequently didn't mention the deficit.

We had better luck with the Tory one which kicked off in much more interesting way, two weekend's ago. First of all we had an MP who nobody had ever heard of - Brooks Newmark, the 56 year old MP for Braintree in Essex. He resigned when it emerged that he had sent a 21 year old Tory public relations "girl" a picture of himself, which was described as "explicit" in the press. I haven't seen this picture myself but he is apparently only wearing the top half of his pyjamas! For this he will go down as a sad episode in Tory history, his wife and his five children haven't said what they think.

In a further irony, Mr Newmark was the Minister for Civil Society who were campaigning to get more women involved in politics.

I tell a lie, we have heard of him, he's the pillock who agreed when asked a question: "that charities should stick to their knitting and stay out of politics".

It used to be said that the Tories were always involved in sex scandals and the Labour Party scandals always involved money. The situation clearly isn't that black and white nowadays.

Then there was another defection to UKIP.

I remember the referendum in 1975 to join what was then called the Common Market and the Tories have been arguing bitterly about it ever since, that's nearly 40 years!

Nigel Farage knows this - he's older than me and he's been playing on this ever since he was one of the founding members of UKIP in September 1993.

I don't think I know any Tories but I can only think this is their standard Pavlovian response to Johnny Foreigner and the fact that the EU costs an absolute fortune. Let's face it we all know that whole chunks of EU infrastructure that are a profligate waste of money.

It would be utter madness to come out of the EU - it may cost an arm and a leg to run and wastes money hand over fist but the UK and the EU are gigantic trading partners. The most recent figures I can find on the HMRC website are for the month of July 2014. We, the UK, imported goods from EU to the tune of £19.6 billion for that month. We sold goods to EU countries to the tune of £12.3 billion for that month. Although these figures fluctuate they have remained consistent for the last 18 months. OK so there is a trade deficit but whichever way you look at it these figures amount to an awful lot of jobs on both sides of the English Channel.

So the other bit of news that came out the weekend of the Tory conference was that a Tory MP defected to UKIP, this is another MP we've never heard of; Mark Reckless, He is well known as a Eurosceptic. After his defection to UKIP, this poor soul has had to move himself and his family; he is married and has two children, to a secret location. According to Nigel Farage "this is because he has been subjected to really unpleasant, nasty, abuse."

As far as I can tell, or it's maybe just wishful thinking on my part but is the Tory Party in trouble? Eight Tory MPs who got elected in 2010 have already indicated that they will not be standing in next year's election. Louise Mensch has buggered off to America, to write and look after her family. She was also elected in 2010. Boris has already started jostling to place himself in an ideal position to stand to be the next leader of the Conservative Party. UKIP are on the way up and will damage the Tories more than the Labour Party, although I think  they will make inroads into both.

My thanks go to my friend Suzanne Cowling who pointed out to me that it was Brooks Newmark who made the snide remark about charities.