Emma launches Social Work APPG report into Adult Mental Health Services in England

September 20, 2016

Last week in Parliament the All Party Parliamentary Group on Social Work which Emma chairs, published their report into Adult Mental Health Services in England.

The report, which began after an initial scoping roundtable in December 2014 has culminated in 40 recommendations to improve adult mental health services across the country.

Emma and colleagues alongside the APPG’s Secretariat, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) received submissions from representatives across the mental health sector, from practitioners, social workers, the police, the Department of Health, MPs, Councillors and service-users.

All those who participated in the report and other stakeholders were invited to the launch of the report and there was a great response, in particular to the fact the report focussed on adult mental health services, which was felt to be too often overlooked in the care setting.

 Emma was joined on the panel by Dr Ruth Allen, CEO of the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) and Dr Jane Shears, Chair of BASW Mental health Reference Group.

The report was well-received and many felt, much needed but it was recognised that it was now up to the Government to recognise the value of the findings and implement the recommendations.

Introducing the report Emma said,

Thank you all for coming to the launch of our report into Adult Mental Health Services in England.

Each year, about one in four people suffer from a mental health problem. You would be hard pushed to find a family, or indeed any member of society up and down the country who has not been touched directly or indirectly with mental health issues because mental illness is indiscriminate.

So this report is important. It is important for all MPs, Peers and policy makers across the political divide – even those who don’t have a particular interest in Health or Social Care – because if we can get the treatment for people with mental health problems right, the positive impact and benefits for society are untold.

I am proud of the report which we began back in December 2014; it is if I do say so myself well researched, well-rounded and ambitious, packed with expertise and common-sense.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in the making of it; the mental health practitioners, social workers, the police, the Department of Health, MPs on the APPG and otherwise, Councillors, BASW and in particular those who shared with us their personal experiences of living with this potentially devastating illness.

Just over three years ago, I was practising as a social worker in frontline child protection and I was a cabinet member on my local council for adult social care services. I have had first-hand professional experience of the good, the bad and the ugly of mental health provision.

And I’ve had very personal experience of witnessing the despair of a family member who has suffered with mental health problems. Of the helplessness you feel when no words or actions can release your loved one from a world of turmoil that is so bleak, so cold, so lonely, so dark, so hopeless.  I’ve seen that loved one become a shadow; the life-blood sucked from their body, their eyes lifeless and other-worldly. I know what it’s like to desperately want to help someone who does not want to be here anymore.

And I, despite my professional experience, still did not know where to turn or how to navigate a system that means well and is full of highly trained people but is so fragmented and chaotic, that it is unwieldy and confusing for practitioners and service users alike.

And whilst there is a great deal of political will and finance generated to improve mental health services – there is no coherent strategy to treat people with mental health problems, to disseminate funding effectively or measure outcomes adequately which becomes exacerbated by moves towards privatisation.

I’m pleased to say that its not all bad, the report finds that there is a great deal of good practice occurring in the sector but the overall service is too variable. There is no national framework or agreed standard of practice to ensure that every individual receives the highest level of care when accessing the mental health system. That is why we advocate a whole system approach.

And that approach starts with the individual. Integral to our report is the need for a move away from the clinically dominated model so there is at least equal parity with the social model. This can be summed up neatly by saying we must treat the person not the patient.

This isn’t just a fluffy idea to make patients feel more human – it is a vitally important approach to treating mental health problems. Yes, you can medicate someone, you can make them stable and that saves lives but often this can be just the beginning or part of the journey not the end. We also need those with the most severe mental health problems to feel life is worth living. To live life not just exist and suffer in a vacuum.

There are too many gaps between services and therefore too many opportunities for service users to fall between the gaps, especially in the transition from child to adult provision, those in the criminal justice system, the homeless, those addicted to substances, black and minority ethic communities and other minorities and our veterans . We have made recommendations on how such silos and barriers can be broken down.

Medication is only part of the solution and that needs to be understood from day one if we are to give those with mental health problems the best possible outcome. An outcome that recognises that a successful result for a person with mental health problems is to live and work in society and to be self-sufficient –  the same as everybody else. It may take longer to reach this desired outcome; it may be more expensive in the short-term but the positive benefits, the lasting effects and the cost-effectiveness of such an outcome to the whole of society is obvious.

I want to pay tribute to all of those working in mental health. The dedication shown towards their profession is outstanding but they are over-stretched and there is a lot of evidence to illustrate that they are picking up the pieces from an inadequate system – many working outside of their hours to do so. The excessive pressure is making too many of them unwell and this cannot go on.

Finally, whilst mental problems can strike anybody regardless of social background, the report backs up the evidence that poverty and deprivation are common factors leading to mental health problems.  Which is why we have seen spikes in people accessing services in response to recent welfare reforms, because ill thought out legislation always has consequences, and nearly always for the most vulnerable.

This report is essential reading for all policy makers across all Government departments because mental health can’t be neatly parcelled up under the care of one department – it can’t be treated in isolation. Every single social and public policy will have an impact on the mental health of the Nation. We all have a stake.

I hope you will all campaign with me to encourage the Government to implement our recommendations for a joined-up, person-led, holistic mental health provision framework.




Read the full report: Report of the Inquiry into Adult Mental Health Services in England here:

View Gallery from Report Launch here:

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