Author Archives: Jane Alliston

Why waiting times matter in mental health

18 weeks. That’s the target waiting time, often missed, from referral to being seen.  From now in deepest darkest December to  Mid April, what an age that is. It’s hard on adults. Arguably harder when that’s how long some of our most distressed young people have to wait for support. 18 weeks or  4 months is a very long time if you are 13. If you are being bullied, if life is becoming more complex and you feel ill equipped to cope. It’s more than a school term, it’s too long and that’s the best on offer. Too often, currently for  1600  children,  the wait was over a year. Let’s be realistic, any child that has asked for help and waits over a year will undoubtedly experience that response as  No, there is no help.

The last 18 months has seen very few of us untouched by the pressures of the pandemic and the impact on the mental health of both adults and the young has been significant. From a self-reported rising anxiety across the population generally to increased rates of disordered eating and self harming amongst young people.  

In my work as Counsellor I have seen this in the increased waiting lists for our third sector services, parents seeking private services for children to avoid waiting times that seem to be never ending and referrals to online services. Even before Covid we were in trouble. One young person I worked with, told me what she’d learnt from 5 years bouncing between referrals from her GP  to the private sector, to CAMHS and to online services as she now transitioned to adult services.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 1 Comment

Universal Basic Income, why now?

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We are currently in the midst of an unwanted sociological experiment.

Society is reliant on its citizens being responsive to the current restrictions in a way that cannot realistically be enforced by coercion.

The lessons to be drawn can offer us significant hope. A hope that, as a counsellor working in mental health, I have always had. It is a hope in the possibility of the majority to find a way to do the best for themselves and others.

An army of volunteers have been found. Neighbours are mostly, neighbourly. Politicians have asked that citizens be trusted to pay their part in the current challenges and we have not been found wanting. (Apart from my own glass recycling, I include myself in this). In the counselling room I see that the human spirit has both conscience and drive, often in the face of appalling experiences.  Daily I see people trying to find a way to become the person they want to be, across all social groups, often hampered by shame of circumstance.

The radical idea of Universal benefit has been floated by economists and idealists since Tudor England and the writings of Thomas Payne, but those holding the mindset of the poorhouse have never trusted that “handouts’  wouldn’t create a culture of workshy reliance.

The truest form of Universal Basic Income (UBI) provides a base to all via the income tax code. It could equalise the starting point of income for all at a basic minimum. Zero income means a negative tax rate (a credit)  but it is not about making all equal, although less inequality is inevitable.

UBI is and should be seen as the provision of stability.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 38 Comments
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