Thursday 5 August 2010

Yeah but no but yeah but no but yeah...

I get out my wellies again for the Eisteddfod in Ebbw Vale where the microbus gleams in spite of a dust-bath only relieved by intermittent heavy showers. There is much interest in the “Road to Recovery” message along with increasing concern expressed by visitors about the looming funding difficulties for health and social care. The realisation is dawning fast among civic society and the public at large that great change is imminent. With this in mind Hafal’s Chair Elin Jones and staffer Jessica Wearing-Evans attend the “Yes” Referendum campaign meeting on the Maes and Elin bowls a googly at First Minister Carwyn Jones along these lines (very loose translation):

One argument for more powers to be devolved would be that the Mental Health Measure (Welsh law) could have been introduced two years earlier had it not required the palaver of an LCO processing through the UK Parliament first; but what people with a serious mental illness need to know is, whether or not powers are devolved, will you guarantee the ring-fence on NHS mental health spending fully – including the Continuing Healthcare funding used for the most seriously ill?

Elin’s question gets the biggest applause incidentally.

Carwyn responds positively that the Welsh Government’s good record as he sees it on mental health will be sustained. He also makes a general statement widely reported in the media today that a Yes vote will actually ensure a better financial deal for Wales as a whole – his argument seems to be that the UK Government won’t feel inclined to reform the Barnett formula if the Assembly can’t muster public support on the question of powers. The issues are not strictly connected at all (as Carwyn would no doubt acknowledge) and over night the UK Government has swiftly denied that the Referendum would affect their view on funding. However, he has a point about how respectful the UK Government might be of a Welsh Government which can't gain public support for more powers. I expect Hafal like Vicky Pollard will not form a definitive view on the Referendum but we will want to set out the arguments and encourage our stakeholders to get involved and vote.

Back to Elin’s question. It wouldn’t be fair to expect a detailed response from the First Minister at this meeting on the ring-fence issue but we need to pursue this. There is a strong suspicion that one area of NHS mental health spending is not being included inside the fence, that is the Continuing Healthcare funding used to purchase treatment and care for many people with more serious mental illnesses. I am meeting Welsh NHS bosses soon and hope to press this matter.

The Maes this year is a bit of a dog's breakfast surrounded by and even including islands of fenced-off industrial wreckage – I wonder if the organisers expected to find the site in this state when they booked it many months ago?