This was undoubtedly organised as a way of winning over middle ground voters, and maybe even as part of an effort to clean up Mr Letwin’s recently marred public image.
The 45 minute speech on conservative ideals was an eye opener to me, as I had never heard it straight from the source. If you aren’t aware, the concept is that we should all be striving to write the “story of our own lives” and that no-one should be held back from achieving their dreams and thus we “liberate the human spirit”. I agree, working hard and being ambitious is awesome, however, I find it even more liberating when I am also conscious to the many incredible “stories” being written around me, and indeed the greater story that we play a small part of. Conservatism, I discovered, is a little too ego-centric for my liking. I guess that makes me “left-leaning”?
Takin’ it to the man
After this speech, I was the first of the audience to raise my hand to ask a question. I put it to Mr Letwin that the government was failing to deal with our rising mental health issues.
Despite the government’s numerous promises for increased investment, all the evidence (below) is showing us that vital funding and support is not being made available to mental health services on the NHS, and that these issues are being largely neglected. That combined with the fact that the government has now stopped publishing how much it spends and where this spend is allocated (information only accessible via Freedom of Information requests), means it is now even harder to hold the government to account, when it shouldn’t be.
Mr Letwin replied typically (and disappointingly) by heralding all the great achievements done in the past to address mental health, but said that there was still a lot more to do.
You can listen to the full exchange here.
What is actually happening…
The ideas of “big society” and “opportunity for all” are noble, however they can only work in practice when we all have the same access to basic and necessary healthcare.
After six-years of a Conservative led government the signs are bleak where our NHS is concerned. Indeed, when telling us to focus on our individualistic aspirations, one has to ask where a collectivist institution like the NHS fits? Is that why we are seeing increasingly more of it sold off and privatised?
Just some of the depressing facts about our collective state of mental health:
Accountability (lack of)
Lack of accountability is also a big problem: we still have no clarity on the promised government spending. In fact you have to use a Freedom of Information request to find out how much Clinical Commissioning Groups were allocating to mental health. The findings are alarming: 67% of CCGs spent less than 10% of their budget on mental health. This is despite mental health accounting for 23% of the total burden of disease.
In 2011/12 total investment in mental health dropped for the first time in a decade. Perhaps unsurprisingly, that same year the Government stopped publishing how much it invests in mental health.
It simply is not good enough. One has to wonder at what point will this government start taking our health seriously.
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