The Tories betray wilful ignorance in refusing to acknowledge that some adults need support all their lives – asking them to pay care costs is wrong
Much has been said about the Conservative manifesto pledges on social care and Theresa May’s subsequent U-turn, but one issue that has so far escaped scrutiny is the Tories’ strange assumption that social care is all about older people. This is despite the fact that around a third of those who need social care services are of working age [pdf].
Social care affects all adults who need support because of a disability or long-term health condition. This might include a learning disability, a physical disability or severe and enduring mental ill-health. The failure of the Conservative manifesto to acknowledge any of this gives the impression of a party that is wilfully ignorant of the nature of adult social care and its beneficiaries.
Related: The ‘dementia tax’ mess shows how little May thinks of disabled people | Frances Ryan
Related: Forget money – we need to rethink what social care should look like
PM confronted by nurse over issue of low pay in Question Time special, while Jeremy Corbyn is questioned over Trident and national security
Theresa May came under sustained pressure over the Conservative party’s record on public sector pay, mental health services and social care in a combative election edition of BBC1’s Question Time broadcast less than a week before polling day.
The prime minister faced a string of awkward questions from members of the public, including a challenge from a nurse, Victoria Davey, who left May faltering after confronting her over the 1% pay increase received by NHS staff.
Related: Question Time leaders’ special: May under fire over NHS and education – live
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There is no greater indictment of British society than soaring rates of mental distress in children. No wonder politicians cling to a simplistic ‘illness’ model
The public profile of mental health experienced another boost this week, thanks to some moving comments made by Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge about the impact of their mother’s death, nearly 20 years ago. The two royals are working for the Heads Together campaign, which seeks to combat the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and to encourage people to speak more openly about their difficulties.
Harry’s admission that he had ignored his own emotional distress for several years before eventually having counselling was a valuable contribution, from a figure more commonly associated with laddish machismo. William’s focus on male suicide statistics was also a good use of his celebrity.
There is no more damning indictment on British society in 2017 than the prevalence of mental distress among children
Related: The stiff upper lip: why the royal health warning matters
Chief inspector of constabulary says forces increasingly used as service of first resort and face ‘unacceptable drain’ on resources
Police cannot continue to pick up the slack for cuts in other public services, especially the shortage in mental health provision, Her Majesty’s chief inspector of constabulary has warned.
In an annual state of policing report, Sir Tom Winsor highlights a “modern tsunami of online fraud” and increased police awareness of crimes against the elderly and child sexual exploitation as among the increasing daily pressures facing officers.
The chief executive of Mental Health First Aid England says going into every secondary school is just the beginning of a new approach to mental illness
Poppy Jaman, chief executive of the not-for-profit Mental Health First Aid England (MHFAE), believes Theresa May meant business when she pledged in January to make mental health a priority. Despite ministers being accused of breaking their promises after £800m in cash earmarked for mental health was last month redirected to offsetting wider NHS budget problems, Jaman argues that the government will come good.
Related: Prince Harry grief revelations draw praise from mental health experts
The jobcentre service needs staff who understand mental health so people get the right support
Related: Prince William: suicide callout shed light on men’s mental health
NHS teams not checking up on thousands of patients after discharge, increasing suicide risks, Mind survey finds
Thousands of vulnerable people are being left at increased risk of suicide because NHS mental health teams in England and Wales are not checking up on them within a week of their discharge from hospital.
At least 11,000 people a year who have recently been in mental health inpatient care are not followed up within a week of coming home, despite guidelines requiring the NHS to contact them.
Related: What we need is a national social care service | Anne Perkins
Related: What can the UK learn from Finland’s approach to mental health?
The chief executive of Remploy says living with depression has made him a better person to run the organisation that gets £50m of contracts to help people back into work
Gareth Parry has spent almost three decades supporting people with disabilities and mental health issues find work, but a recent mental health crisis of his own has given him a personal insight into the remit of the organisation he leads.
Parry has only ever worked for Remploy, starting as a trainee administrator and becoming chief executive a year ago. Problems in his personal life two years ago triggered depression. At the time, he was overseeing a government contract for workplace mental health support. “I knew a lot [professionally] about mental ill health, but I didn’t recognise it,” he says. “Suddenly I was on the other side. It reinforced the importance of organisations like Remploy; work gave me routine, structure, focus, when everything else in my life was in chaos.”
We must recognise, harness and nurture people’s abilities rather than see only a disability
Among other weighty events on Wednesday, there is a chink of light that could transform the lives of thousands of people with learning disabilities, needlessly stuck in mental health institutions away from homes, families and communities. On Wednesday, the public affairs committee will hear from Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, and others, on reducing the number of people with learning disabilities in mental health hospitals to improve their quality of life. As a psychiatrist, I see many patients parked in hospital wards with years of their lives just rolling past. While the government’s target is to close 1,300 beds by 2019, only 60 beds have been closed so far.
Institutionalisation of this group of people in chaotic and turbulent hospitals for months, often years, on end can be devastating for their wellbeing. Yet this continues. Over 2,500 inpatients with learning disabilities remain in hospital, despite government commitment for them to have “the right to the same opportunities as anyone else to live satisfying and valued lives, and to be treated with dignity and respect … have a home within their community, be able to develop and maintain relationships, and get the support they need to live healthy, safe and rewarding lives”.
Superficially the UK leads the world on disability rights, but colossal cuts are undermining the progress made over the last few decades
On Monday, disabled representatives from disability organisations across England, Scotland and Wales presented reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Geneva. It is now eight years since the UK ratified the UNCRPD with cross-party support and this is the committee’s first full examination of the UK’s performance.
So how are we doing? The government is fond of claiming that the UK is a “world leader” on disability rights. Superficially, this claim remains fairly accurate. We have the most comprehensive and proactive equality law anywhere in the world; social care legislation and practice that embodies the principle of choice and control; a social security system that claims to recognise the extra costs of disability; and law and regulations to advance accessibility. It is important to remind ourselves of what disabled people have achieved over the past 30-40 years of disability rights activism, as we have charted our journey from objects of care and charity to becoming active, contributing citizens. But any assessment of progress cannot be confined solely to what we now have, or where we were in the past. And judging by the UK’s direction of travel, the government’s claim of world leadership quickly unravels: we are seeing big cuts to services and watering down of rights and opportunities of disabled people.