As part of their 2015 general election campaign, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to fund mental health by an extra £3.5bn, yet I think this promise is more insulting than inspiring.
In The Guardian, Nick Clegg described mental health equality as a “liberal mission” and said that £1bn had already been secured as part of the coalition budget. In the same article, Mr Clegg also said that mental health parity was something he has been campaigning for since he came into politics. However, I believe that putting such emphasis on mental health equality is a way of trying to garner votes, another empty promise – I’m getting flashbacks to the 2010 tuition fee fiasco. Secretary of State for Health, Jeremy Hunt would tell you that the mental health budget has gone up rather than being cut. Speaking to Channel 4 news in March he said: “It has actually gone up in real terms and we can show you the numbers.”
(For more information click the picture). With this in mind, it is worth pointing out that my opinion is not based off of figures in regards to the mental health budget – this includes far too much maths and there are opposing figures floating around. As I am sure we know, numbers can be, and most probably are, manipulated to make people look good. As Mark Twain said: “There are lies, damn lies and statistics.” My opinion is based off of the chain of events following actions by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), bedroom tax and how since coming into power, the government (which includes the Liberal Democrats) have been a major contributor to the decline of mental health in this country. During my own research including that conducted for my dissertation, I have spoken to people who have been on benefits – with and without mental health issues, and the general consensus was that being on benefits was stressful enough. Those with mental health issues also described their anxiety about the process and how they felt like they had to prove they were suffering. In December 2014, The Guardian reported that the since 2012 the DWP has conducted 60 internal reviews into suicides or alleged suicides that were related to DWP activity. The same article also stated that sanctions against disabled ESA claimants had risen by 480% between December 2012 (1096) and June 2014 (5132). These figures are not only startling, there are examples such as, Sheila Holt, a woman who was repeatedly asked why she had no job, when she was in a coma – These act as potential warnings for those of us with mental health issues. The bedroom tax is another reason why I believe The Liberal Democrats using mental health as an election point not only adds insult to injury, it is ridiculously hypocritical. Introduced in April 2013, the bedroom tax was introduced and means that those receiving housing benefits have their entitlement reduced if they live in a council or housing association property and are deemed to have a spare room; having one spare bedroom reduces housing benefit by 14% and having two spare rooms or more means a reduction of 25%. Whilst it is said that there are exemptions to those who will have to pay the tax – the reductions of tax have left people up and down the country in dire situations such as; Newcastle residents going hungry to ensure the tax is paid, being left with £6 a week to live off of and even suicide – most notably, Stephanie Bottrill who committed suicide because she was worried about the tax.
To make matters worse in December of last year a Labour proposed plan to abolish the bedroom tax was lost by a reduced minority (32) when The Liberal Democrats sided with The Conservatives, winning the vote 298 to 266. I find it almost laughable that The Liberal Democrats have decided to jump on the band wagon in regards to mental health, when they appear to have been a major part in policies that have had a negative effect on the mental health of the UK public. If Nick Clegg and his party cared so much about mental health ,why is this coming to the forefront now? Surely the party would have played an integral part in trying to make sure that the policies they voted for helped the community rather than hindering it. Dear Liberal Democrats, you are not the mental health saviours, you have no right to make things worse and then act like you should be given a pat on the back for trying to clean up your own mess.