A once-in-a-generation opportunity

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

Stewart Jackson MP's Westminster Life column in the Peterborough Telegraph - peterboroughtoday.co.uk

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People often think politicians agree on very little and argue for just the sake of it.

Their views are invariably informed by the confrontational bear pit that is Prime Ministers’ Questions, with its gladiatorial feel.

That’s really not true:

Away from the cameras, MPs work together in committees, all party groups, campaigning and lobby organisations, on a whole host of non contentious items which make up the bulk of the mundane business of governing a modern and sophisticated country of 65 million people. Of course, there are always big issues of principle but Westminster is a small place and you simply have to coexist with your colleagues across all parties, irrespective of what’s said at election time.

An example is my own Select Committee in the Commons, the Public Accounts Committee, which during its whole 160 year history has never divided on a vote in its work of overseeing Government expenditure.

One area of non partisan and cross party consensus is the new and greater emphasis on the parity of esteem between physical and mental health and the breaking down of the stigma attached to the latter. MPs have recently admitted their own mental health problems, such as depression and OCD and in doing so have broken the taboo of mental health problems being kept secret in “polite” society. And why should that be as one in four adults suffer a mental health problem during their life?

It’s been an issue in Peterborough over many years too and I have always been concerned at mental health provision for teenagers and children, particularly at weekends and out of hours.

That’s why this week I’ve warmly welcomed the Government’s commitment to an extra £1 billion to be spent on mental health services, with a focus on new mums with post natal depression for instance as well as children and young people and helping those with mental health issues into work and to stay in paid employment. Many now languish on benefits when they can and want to work.

More details of the Mental Health Taskforce’s report can be read via www.gov.uk/government/policies/mental-health-service-reform

I believe that this is a once in a generation opportunity to improve the life chances of people with mental health problems, which gives hope for them and their families and is great for creating a One Nation society.