Tuesday 24 April 2012

Voting Is Good For You

More about those local elections. There is a real worry that in these difficult economic times Councils might neglect people with a serious mental illness in the hope that the NHS will provide. That has always been a problem in some areas and in today's circumstances it is all the more important to hold Councils to account and make sure they serve the most vulnerable people in our communities. And there is no better opportunity to do that than at election time when the tables are turned and the candidates look for your support!

There are many decent men and women of all political parties and none already serving as Councillors or standing for election on 3 May but please don't be too deferential - press hard for their commitment to these priorities and indeed for any specific needs you perceive in your community...

1. We need a commitment from local councils to preserve and enhance services for those with the highest needs, including those with serious mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Local councils have a duty to focus their resources on the most vulnerable.

2. Social services need to play a full part in supporting people with a serious mental illness – in partnership with the NHS – by providing responsive services which empower people to live independent lives. Every social services department in every council needs to ensure that mental health services are well-resourced. Every department needs a strong lead for mental health to represent the interests of service users and carers at the heart of social care provision.

3. Local councils need to support the delivery of the new Mental Health Measure (Wales’ new mental health law). The new law gives secondary mental health service users in Wales the right to a care plan which set goals in all areas of life. Local councils can support service users by providing excellent services in these life areas – for example, they should provide a range of quality housing, education and leisure opportunities which are accessible to people with a mental illness.

4. Local councils need to support carers. They must provide carers with assessments of their needs and provide a range of support which meets those needs. Councils also need to ensure that when they implement the Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure, specialist information, guidance and support for carers of people with a mental illness is provided.

5. Local councils should promote choice. They should extend choice and control to mental health service users not only through direct payments but by providing a flexible and responsive approach to commissioning services on behalf of individual service users.

Hafal has a long track record of encouraging participation in elections not just because the results matter but because it's important for individuals to be a part of the decision-making in their community and country, not just the passive recipients of what our leaders choose to dish out to us. Fundamentally VOTING IS GOOD FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH!