Author Archives: Kirsten Johnson

Parliament debates Mental Health First Aid

The Backbench debate on incorporating Mental Health First Aid into First Aid At Work legislation is scheduled to take place this morning in Parliament.

The Government statement on this is here, with a debate pack pdf link at the bottom entitled, “Mental health first aid in the workplace”.

One of the reasons I entered politics, as a career musician, was my concern over mental health care and the lack of provision for those experiencing mental ill-health.

In March 2015 I successfully amended Liberal Democrat party policy on Mental Health to include incorporating mental health first aid into physical First Aid at Work courses.

Posted in Op-eds and Parliament | Tagged and | 2 Comments

Paddy’s Dangerous Idea No. 2

Following on from my post last week on Paddy’s Dangerous Idea No. 1, I am delving into his second proposal. Paddy argued:

We have long understood that property owning rights are one of the foundation stones of democracy. Yet each of us gives away our most intimate of property free and daily to the most powerful corporations, who make millions and millions from it. I am talking of course, about our personal data.

Why do we Lib Dems not assert the citizens right to own their own data and to have control over how it is used? Why about proposing a law – perhaps a European one – which says to Messrs Amazon, Google, Starbucks etc, that they can use our personal data for their commercial purposes, but only with our permission and if they give us a share of the profits. Can you think of anything which would more alter the relationship between these masters of the commercial universe and the customers whose information they exploit for such enormous profit? Can you think of anything which would more empower the citizen in the market place? Isn’t that what we Lib Dems are supposed to be about? So?

I really like this idea. Ownership of our own data gives us not only control over who does what with our data but means we can expect to be paid if others use our data, especially if they make money from it. It might seem radical, but it makes a lot of sense.

The arguments over whether we own our bodies and separated bodily material have been extensively debated. If we do own our bodies, shouldn’t our data also be owned by us – isn’t our data inherently who we are?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 9 Comments

Championing Freedom of Belief

Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review into the persecution of Christians worldwide. We are fortunate in this country to be able to practice our faiths, or have no faith, whichever the case might be. But in many countries of the world this is not the case. 

Our 2017 General Election manifesto called for the UK to lead on establishing the right to religious freedom around the world:

Appoint an ambassador-level champion for freedom of belief to drive British diplomatic efforts in this field, and campaign for the abolition of

Posted in News and Op-eds | Tagged , , , and | 22 Comments

Digging deeper into No. 1 of Paddy’s Dangerous Ideas

I think the time has come for us to do a lot more with No. 1 of Paddy’s Dangerous Ideas.

We persist in the medieval practice of taking students to medieval ivy-covered buildings, to receive their education in the medieval manner from minds, too many of which, when it comes to delivering education, are stuck in the middle ages. Yet distance learning was pioneered in Britain at the Open University when communicating with your tutor meant stuffing your academic paper in an envelope, licking it, sticking a stamp on it and putting it in the local post-box.

Today the whole planet is into distance learning. Many of our own Universities make tons of money providing distance learning degree courses to students all over the world. But none of them are in Britain! If we were to convert at least part of our tertiary education syllabus to distance learning we might reduce the cost of degrees without diminishing their quality, give students more flexibility, force lecturers into the modern age, widen access and create a superb platform for adult education all at the same time.

Why, beloved Lib Dems, do we allow medieval vested interests to preserve our ivy-covered tertiary education system exactly as it is, loading more and more debt on students and preventing us from doing what much of the rest of the world is doing already? Just asking?

This idea has come back to me in North Devon. A local councillor in South Molton, not realising that it was one of Paddy’s Dangerous Ideas, spoke to me at length about how wonderful the Open University was. How in places like North Devon, where there are no universities, and a real lack of opportunity to advance skills, one can still access the Open University and get a degree. He asked me, how can we build on this model and enable everyone in North Devon to upskill and train?

I am suggesting that one of our best ways of honouring Paddy is to bring some of his Dangerous Ideas into fruition.

Let’s champion life-long learning, as Vince has promoted, by building online learning platforms so that people, whether they live in North Devon or in Shetland, can achieve the same level of accreditation and training as those who live in cities. Let’s put in place 21st-century methods of education, and not be stuck in the medieval model of tutorials and physical lectures.

We have a real opportunity to lead here and I think it is a fantastic opportunity for us. Promoting virtual education is education-for-all, not just those who can take time off for university or afford three years of tuition without working at the same time.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 26 Comments

LibLink: Sal talks about International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Yesterday was International Day of Persons with Disabilities and Lib Dem President Sal Brinton wrote a blog highlighting issues disabled people face. It begins:

I am very aware that one billion people around the world live with a disability – that’s roughly 15% of the global population. I am one of them, mainly using a wheelchair and sometimes walking with sticks. I could have written something smooth and supportive, but I am angry at having to be an afterthought in our society today.

I’ll be frank. Most people are not aware of the daily barriers and difficulties that we face, whether it is the benefits system using the medical model of disability, making decisions about us that bear no relation to our lived experience, or travel – whether by bus, train, taxi or plane – where both the companies running transport and the wider public have no idea of how difficult even the simplest journey can be.

As a senior politician, I turn up to event after event around the country, including TV interviews, where I cannot get to the stage or platform. As a traveller, I have been left on trains at 10pm at night, been reduced to tears in airports, been offered an accessible room in a hotel to discover it has a bath, not a shower…. Many other disabled people can add to this tale of frustration!

Sal continues:

I want to thank friends and colleagues who are supportive on social media when I post if things have gone wrong. But we need a more fundamental rethink. People with disabilities need everyone to come on side and help us to change the system.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged | 1 Comment

Happy Thanksgiving!

Plymouth Rock

This is a revised version of last year’s post…

The North American holiday of Thanksgiving was born of tragedy. The Mayflower, filled with settlers from England, docked in Plymouth, Massachusetts in December 1620. Of the 102 passengers and around 30 crew on board, only five women of eighteen survived the winter, and around half the men and crew.

The following spring, the Wampanoag, a native people, taught the incomers which crops were endemic to the New World, and how to fertilise their crops with fish. This act of good will let to a plentiful harvest, and gave the Pilgrims hope that they might survive the next winter.

American Thanksgiving was set as the fourth Thursday in November by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941 when he signed a joint resolution of Congress changing the national Thanksgiving Day from the last Thursday in November to the fourth Thursday. Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October.

Posted in LDVUSA and Op-eds | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

The rest of us can learn from what the Welsh are doing with education….

Two recent press releases have caught my eye. As PPC for North Devon, a rural economy where, on average, schools get £300 less per pupil than in the rest of England, I am keen on education reform. Key to that is ensuring good teaching and supporting our teachers.

So I was pleased to see that Welsh Lib Dem Education Secretary Kirsty Williams has announced the single biggest investment in Wales’ teachers since devolution. This is through a groundbreaking £24m package to help teachers deliver Wales’ new curriculum. Kirsty says,

This major investment shows how highly we value teachers’ professional learning. It is an investment in excellence and we are aiming for nothing less than a wholesale reform of how teachers learn; a process that starts from the moment they begin initial teacher education and goes right the way through their career.

The National Approach to Professional Learning (NAPL) will focus on flexible ways of learning that don’t disrupt the school day. A much more accessible blend of learning will be available through Wales’ regions and universities. This will encompass learning outside the classroom, online learning, classroom learning and coaching.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds commented,

This announcement is yet another example of the transformational reforms the Welsh Lib Dems are implementing in our national mission to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are committed to creating a Wales where every child has the opportunity to achieve their potential and determine their own destiny. This funding will help us realise this vision.

Not only are the Welsh investing in teachers, but they are also protecting rural schools.  Kirsty Williams introduced a new, stronger code last week which includes a presumption against the closure of rural schools. This is part of a wider Rural Education Plan which also includes a Small and Rural Schools Grant.

Posted in Op-eds and Wales | Tagged , , , , and | 6 Comments

God Speed The Plough

One of the pleasures of being a PPC is the opportunity to visit many venues in the run up to Remembrance Day on Sunday.

Last week I had a look around the Flower Festival at St Sabinus’ Church, Woolacombe. Many of the exhibits struck a chord – I, after all, grew up on military bases and appreciate from the inside out the sacrifices women, men and children make in service to their country. The embroidered cards with faded handwritten messages, sent back and forth (yes, some French ones sent home to girlfriends from the front line) were especially poignant.

However, one flower display stood out, and that was the tribute to the Women’s Land Army. “God Speed the Plough” honoured the vital work of women undertaken whilst the nation was at war.

The Women’s Land Army was originally set up in 1917 but then dissolved after the First World War. It was reinstated in 1939 as a voluntary service, and then conscripted women from December 1941. “Land girls” did a variety of jobs on grain, stock and dairy farms, including deployment in an anti-vermin squad (‘rat-catchers’).

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 4 Comments

The Agriculture Bill is Not Good Enough

At Autumn Conference I had the opportunity to speak with the National Farmers Union, receiving an in-depth briefing on farming issues in North Devon. I have been keenly following the passage of the Agriculture Bill through Parliament, knowing that this legislation will affect thousands of farmers up and down this country.

The Agriculture Bill seeks to provide for a range of enabling powers to ensure “stability” for farmers as the UK exits from the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and compliance with the World Trade Organisation Agreement on Agriculture. It also introduces new measures

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 7 Comments

Every day should be Mental Health Awareness Day

We all have mental health, as we all have physical health. That is established.

I welcome World Mental Health Awareness Day – it is great that we can celebrate and work together on better mental health for all. However, we need to recognise that fighting for good mental health provision and raising awareness is a 365-day project.

Suicide is the leading cause of death in men under the age of 45. The Government, yesterday, announced a new role, Minister for Suicide Prevention. Suicide is sadly the final stage in what can be a deterioration of mental health. Regular readers will know that I am a Mental Health First Aider, and as such trained to recognise the signs of someone with suicide ideation. It is not an exact science, but at least I know what to watch out for. Picking up warning signs in colleagues, friends, family is key towards helping those who feel life is too bleak to continue.

Mental Health First Aid is being used by more and more workplaces in their health and well-being strategies. Training line-managers and pastoral care officers to recognise the signs of mental ill-health, whether that is stress, anxiety, depression, psychosis or a range of other conditions, is key to early intervention and prevention.

I welcomed Vince Cable’s demand yesterday for transparency over employers’ mental health strategies. He has called upon businesses to publish their mental health strategies, saying that if they don’t do so voluntarily, then the government should legislate to require such disclosure. Vince said:

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

North Devon Council passes motion calling for Brexit symposium

There is increasing worry about the impact of Brexit on our local economies and the recognition that it is important to make plans for all eventualities.

Last night, the Lib Dems in Opposition on North Devon (District) Council put forward a motion to examine exactly that:

The impact of Brexit (hard or soft) will affect all North Devon residents. This Council believes that with Brexit fast approaching, it is both sensible and realistic that the potential risks and impact of Brexit on North Devon – good and bad, short term and long term – are fully understood as far as is possible and aired in public together with detailed discussion on how these impacts can be mitigated. To achieve this, this Council undertakes to organize and co-ordinate a public conference/symposium before Christmas in which North Devon’s experts and leaders in business, farming, tourism, education, health and social services and other areas are invited to participate, together with elected representatives at all levels. This council is uniquely placed to lead this initiative by immediately setting up a Cross Party Working Group. The findings and conclusions of the symposium would be presented as a report to full Council and other authorities. Furthermore we request that consideration be given to how this Council can assist businesses etc. before and during the transition period.

I am pleased to say that the motion passed, with support from some Conservatives and Independents who recognised the need for such a symposium.

Cllr David Worden, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on North Devon Council, spoke passionately for the motion:

Whenever we turn on the news or read the newspapers it appears that the headlines are all about Brexit. I don’t want to go into the pros and cons of whether we should or should not leave the EU but I am extremely concerned about the impact of Brexit on the economy of North Devon. We live in one of the most deprived areas of the South West. There are hardly any services which have not been hit by austerity cuts. We simply cannot sit back and let the disastrous No Deal scenario, which seems ever likely, to be upon us, unprepared.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , and | 2 Comments

My view on our conference motion to end discrimination in mental health care

The problem with conference is that it is impossible to get to everything! I was hoping to speak on Sunday morning in our debate on the policy motion entitled, “Ending Discrimination In Mental Health Provision”. Regular readers of LDV know that mental health policy is an area I feel strongly about, so I am gutted I can’t get there due to a conflict.

 So I’ll blog my speech instead…

Currently, in our country if you are someone without a mental disorder you have an absolute right to refuse medical treatment or refuse to be detained for medical purposes.

However, if you have a mental disorder or have learning difficulties you lose that right and can be detained and treated under the Mental Health Act 1983 without giving consent.

As the charity Mind has pointed out, anyone with capacity who does not have a mental disorder should not be involuntarily detained. Forcibly detaining someone based on disability is completely discriminatory and should be stopped. As this motion says in lines 17-18, such detentions are in breach of the UN Convention on the rights of Persons with Disabilities.

I am particularly concerned that the Mental Health Act 1983, as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007, justifies the involuntary detention of those with learning difficulties whose behaviour is “abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible”. Behaviours in those with learning difficulties often have unrelated causes (sensory overload, for example), so understanding the cause of such behaviour, and treating the underlying symptoms is what is needed, not involuntary detention.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged , and | Leave a comment

Travel for Sport Post-Brexit

Following on from the European Athletics Championships last week in Berlin comes this letter from the Government on the free movement of those involved in sport after Brexit.

It was in answer to a letter from the Chair of the House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee, Lord Jay of Ewelme. It begins,

The Home Affairs Sub-Committee of the House of Lords EU Committee recently concluded an inquiry into Brexit: freedom of movement in the fields of sport and culture. The Committee will publish a report on freedom of movement in the field of culture; this letter refers to the evidence that we took on sport, and asks for elaboration of a number of points that witnesses raised.

The inquiry considered how the UK’s decision to end free movement from the EU might affect the two sectors. We received written evidence from a range of individuals and organisations, and held two oral evidence sessions.

He goes on to ask the following questions:

  • Has the Government made an analysis of the number of EU27 citizens working in the UK sports sector?
  • Has the Government considered the effect of ending free movement on sports such as horseracing?
  • Has the Government assessed whether extra Tier 5 or Tier 2 visas will need to be issued for EU27 sportspeople wishing to enter the UK post-Brexit, and if so, how many extra visas might be needed?
  • How will non-elite EU27 sportspeople enter the UK after the end of the transition period? Will the Government introduce a preferential system for EU27 sportspeople, or will they fall under the rules that currently exist for non-EU sportspeople?
  • How, if at all, will the Government protect what Angus Bujalski called the “business of sport” from any negative effects associated with ending free movement?
  • Has the Government given any consideration to introducing a seasonal workers scheme for EU27 workers in the sports sector?
  • Has the Government assessed how UK sports, from the elite to the grassroots level, would be affected should the UK no longer be able to make use of the Kolpak ruling?
  • The Government’s current proposal is for an “association agreement” with the EU. Under the terms of an association agreement, would UK sportspeople be able to play in EU sports teams as “homegrown” players, post-Brexit? And could EU sportspeople continue to play in the UK as such?
  • How, if at all, will the Government protect what Angus Bujalski called the “business of sport” from any negative effects associated with ending free movement?
  • Has the Government given any consideration to introducing a seasonal workers scheme for EU27 workers in the sports sector?
  • Has the Government assessed how UK sports, from the elite to the grassroots level, would be affected should the UK no longer be able to make use of the Kolpak ruling?
  • The Government’s current proposal is for an “association agreement” with the EU. Under the terms of an association agreement, would UK sportspeople be able to play in EU sports teams as “homegrown” players, post-Brexit? And could EU sportspeople continue to play in the UK as such?
  • How, if at all, does the Government plan to ensure that sportspeople, other sports sector workers, and fans, will be able to travel and work in the EU after the transition period?
  • What will the Government offer to the EU in return?
Posted in Parliament | Tagged , , and | 24 Comments

Make time for football! The social impact of participating in culture and sport

As a professional musician and the mother of a keen athlete, I was interested to learn that the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee are looking into the social impact of participating in culture and sport.

On Tuesday they took evidence from three people: Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England; John Herriman, Chief Executive, Greenhouse Sports; and Deborah Williams, Executive Director, Creative Diversity Network. The questions asked were around the power of culture and sport to address deep-seeded social issues.

Deborah Williams made the point that we need a broader understanding of what culture is, that it is not elitist, but that there are a breadth of cultural opportunities available and space for all to participate. She highlighted the need for education to be for the whole child.

Posted in Parliament | Tagged , , and | 4 Comments

Christine Jardine’s personal story on why we need to legalise cannabis

I was moved to read Lib Dem MP Christine Jardine’s take on the legalisation of cannabis. She has epilepsy and tells her personal story about why she feels legalising medicinal cannabis is necessary.

“The doctors could not then, and cannot even now, offer an explanation as to what caused me to have a major grand mal seizure in my sleep.

For many years, I was afraid to sleep alone if my husband was away in case I had attack and there was nobody there to look after me.”

She also shared the story of a constituent who is desperate for medicinal cannabis for her young son.

Medicinal cannabis has the potential to alleviate the suffering of thousands of children in this country.

Children like my constituent Murray Gray, whose rare myoclonic astatic epilepsy can put him through multiple seizures a day, have their schooling interrupted, their health affected and their families constantly worried for their safety.

Christine’s empathy and angle on this subject is well worth a read. You can find the full article here.

Posted in LibLink | Tagged , and | 5 Comments

Parity of esteem for mental health – petition to change Health and Safety legislation

Back in 2016 I wrote a blog explaining my efforts to raise awareness of mental health first aid which led to an Early Day Motion being submitted by Norman Lamb MP.

There is now a further campaign led by MHFA England to change health and safety legislation so that there is parity of esteem between mental and physical first aid. Where’s Your Head At? is calling for every workplace to provide Mental Health First Aid as well as physical first aid.

The call is simple:

By law, all workplaces, schools and colleges must make provision around physical first aid. Why not the same for mental health?

Mental health issues including stress, anxiety and depression are the biggest cause of sickness absence in our society. Mental Health First Aid courses teach people to spot the signs of mental health issues, offer initial help and guide a person towards support. When support and treatment is accessed early, people recover faster and have better outcomes for their health.

Training people in mental health awareness and skills also helps to build an open and supportive culture around mental health. This can stop preventable health issues arising in the first place, and empower people with mental health issues to thrive in work.

We believe that mental and physical health should be treated equally – because we all have mental health. Let’s change the law to reflect this.

Besides the profound benefit this will have to those suffering mental ill-health but remaining unsupported and undiagnosed, changing this legislation will also save businesses an estimated £35 billion per year.

Please consider signing the petition. It can be found here.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | Leave a comment

Vince’s IPPR speech

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable MP was invited by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Commission on Economic Justice to speak this morning. You can watch the speech here, with Vince’s bit from 10:38 in.

The entire speech is a long-read for lunchtime, from the end of this blog, but here is an overview of what Vince is calling for when it comes to outsourcing public services, which has come under fire in recent months following the collapse of Carillion and the financial woes of Capita.

Vince’s five-point plan calls …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 4 Comments

82% back increase in taxes to fund NHS

Several NHS stories have caught my eye over the past week, and I wanted to bring them together into a blog that emphasises, yet again, that our NHS needs funding, and needs it soon. I have a heightened awareness now, having travelled the length and breadth of North Devon over recent weeks and seen the lack of provision in the communities there, with the nearest hospital for some being an hour away – and the nearest hospital for many non-urgent appointments being two hours away.

The NHS matters to all of us and needs sorting. We as Lib Dems are proposing a 1p rise in income tax to fund health and social care services. A poll announced yesterday in the Mirror shows that 82% of the population would back a 1p rise in National Insurance to fund the NHS. In answer to the question, “Would you be willing to change your vote in favour of a party who pledged additional NHS funding?” 18% of the respondents said ‘definitely’ and 33% said ‘probably’.

We set out our plan to put 1p on income tax in our 2017 manifesto. Our plan includes an eventual restructuring of National Insurance contributions with ring-fenced money for Health and Social Care. It is party policy that the NHS needs funding and taxes will have to be raised to do it. In the ComRes Mirror poll, almost an equal number of Tory (81%) and Labour (86%) voters agree.

This ComRes poll follows on the Institute for Fiscal Studies and Health Foundation joint report released two weeks ago showing that

Just to keep the NHS providing the level of service it does today will require us to increase spending by an average 3.3% a year for the next 15 years – with slightly bigger increases in the short run to address immediate funding problems.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 10 Comments

Jo Swinson introduces Private Member’s Bill on parental leave

Well done to Lib Dem Deputy Leader Jo Swinson on introducing her Parental Leave and Pay Arrangements Private Member’s Bill yesterday in the Commons. Here she is talking about it:

This bill would require firms which employ more than 250 people to publish their data on parental leave and pay arrangements. As reported in the BBC

Ms Swinson said more than 54,000 women a year lose their jobs because of pregnancy and maternity discrimination, while fathers were worried about taking shared parental leave because of the negative effect on their careers.

Well done Jo on leading the charge! If enacted, this will greatly help parents and prospective parents up and down the country get the support they need from their workplaces.

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 4 Comments

Recent stats on caring

I’ve been delving into the Department of Work and Pensions Family Resources Survey 2016/17 published recently. It contains statistics in five broad categories: Income and State Support; Tenure; Disability; Care; and Pensions.

It is the Care statistics which I’d like to highlight today. I’ve written previously on this site about carers, highlighting the prevalence of women doing the majority of care-work around the world.

These recent Family Resources Survey stats show that the largest portion of informal care is for ageing parents. 33% of this care is for parents not living in …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | Leave a comment

Shocking refusal of citizenship to former Lib Dem mayor

Lib Dem Inga Lockington, the former mayor of Ipswich, has been refused citizenship. It is covered extensively here.

Inga came to the UK in 1979 when she married her British husband. That resonates with me as I moved to the UK twenty-four years ago when I married my British husband. Inga was given indefinite leave to remain at the time, and has been a resident ever since.

Not only has Inga lived in this country, but she has contributed greatly to community life. She has been a councillor for 19 years, and …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 18 Comments

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme is this year is stress. Stress can pervade our lives, but one aspect is stress at work. Keeping a mentally-healthy workforce is best for everyone: the employees, the business and the customers.

Being self-employed as a musician, workplace stress has a slightly different connotation. I’m preparing this week for a solo piano recording on Friday. It can be highly stressful and intense, but I’ve done enough of these projects to know how to manage my stress.

And it is in managing stress that workplaces are now realising they need to put provisions in place. Stats show that mental ill-health cost UK businesses £35 billion last year. A massive sum, made up of absences for illness, lost productivity and staff turnover. And it doesn’t take into account the personal cost to each of those who suffer mental ill-health. Mental Health First Aid is being rolled out in many businesses.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , , , and | 2 Comments

The Learning Disabilities Mortality Review Annual Report

The Learning Disabilities Mortality Review Annual Report was published recently by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership. In it are harrowing statistics of people with learning disabilities dying far too young.

The report highlights the extraordinarily high incidences of preventable death. The Connor Sparrowhawk case has brought this to public attention recently: a young man with learning difficulties left in a bath unattended, he drowned whilst having an epileptic fit.

Between July 2016 and November 2017, 1311 deaths were put forward for review, often by a Learning Disability Nurse. Of those, 27% …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Children’s mental health – the Government is not getting it right

I’m following up my post from February on children’s mental health and the Government’s Green Paper on the issue.  Yesterday, the Education Committee and Health & Social Care Committee issued a joint statement saying that

The Government’s proposed Green Paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health lacks ambition and will provide no help to the majority of those children who desperately need it.

Having three teenage girls, this rams home. The girls tell me of the myriad of mental health issues going on around them – peers self-harming; experiencing psychosis; anorexia; depression; anxiety; the list goes on. This is their world, it is our world, and we are failing our young people.

The Government is rolling out Trailblazer pilot schemes, but it is too little and not being done quickly enough. Hundreds of thousands of children are missing out on the help they need now. I recently spoke with someone who works in CAMHS and she lamented the lack of provision locally for the girls she was working with. Staff know the pressures, parents are living with the pressures, young people are suffering needlessly.

The need for more resource in schools to support young people was highlighted, with the report saying existing CAMHS staff could not do any more than they are already doing. People are stretched to capacity.

Participants in the workshops highlighted exam pressure as being a major cause of mental ill-health. The report suggests the Government needs to commission a study on the effect of our exam-based system on mental health.

Young people excluded from school are far more prone to mental ill-health, but the Green Paper does not address this issue. How can we better meet the needs of these young people?

A major worry for many parents is the transition from children’s to adult mental health services. It is not happening. Young people are falling through the gaps and not receiving the services they need as they enter adulthood. Currently, young people transition at 18, but the report suggests that 25 would be a more appropriate age. What is scary is that seemingly a third of young people drop out of mental health care when they turn 18 and don’t make the transfer to adult services.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

And Music Services continue to be cut…

Lib Dem MP Stephen Lloyd is supporting a campaign to save the East Sussex Music Service. He wrote in his newsletter:

Sadly the budget cuts just keep rolling in from East Sussex County Council, and they’re now planning severe reductions to our music services.

The absolutely brilliant East Sussex Music Service (ESMS) are celebrating their 84th year; they deliver music lessons to around 7000 children in schools across the county per annum and 1000 children, aged between 4 and 18, attend area music centres each week. Despite this success, the county council have announced plans are being made to close the music instrumental service by 2019. This will result in the loss of valued music provision for many and destroy a service which has introduced thousands of Eastbourne children to music over the decades.

I believe such proposals are unnecessary, wrong and shortsighted. I’ve also been told that staff believe savings can be made without slashing such a much loved music service. We need County Hall to pause, listen to the people they serve and go back to the music staff to ask them how the funding circle can be squared, rather than just propose a decimation of the entire instrument teaching provision. A decision which if it goes through, will be horrendously difficult to reverse. Please join me in opposing this cut by signing the online petition here.

I remember being amazed when studying the music systems of Albania under Enver Hoxha’s regime, that every child, from nursery onwards, was taught music. By the age of four, those showing talent were given individual lessons. By the age of six, some children were learning two instruments. Music was a celebrated part of culture, not a sideline. I wondered why we didn’t do the same.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 2 Comments

It’s Election Day!

Good luck to all our candidates up and down the country! We wish you and your teams well for what will be a very long and exhausting day. Some tips to survive:

  1. Have fun! There is nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of getting out the vote on election day and all the excitement of the count. Make sure you enjoy as much of it as you can. It is a wonderful experience which many of our new members are having for the first time.
  2. Hydrate. Drink lots of water, it’s a long day and brains as well as body need to be kept alert and oiled for action.
  3. Listen to your Committee Room manager or Campaign Organiser. They will have an overview of how things are going and will be targeting resources where they matter.
  4. Have some downtime and take short breaks, but don’t distract others who might be beavering away.
  5. Make sure you eat. It’s a bit like the television show 24 where the characters never seemed to stop to eat. An election day can be like that. Eat healthy carbs and avoid too many chocolate bars and cakes. The sweet rush lasts a little while, but sandwiches and bananas give you the endurance to last the day.

Remember to vote – it is easy to become distracted with election day chaos and forget! I remember my first election campaign, getting to the polling station at 9:45pm as I had left voting until the end. Well actually, I forgot. Someone reminded me. So do cast your vote!

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 3 Comments

Rise of Foodbank Use Linked to Universal Credit

I’ve just spent some time reading Early Warnings, Universal Credit and Foodbanks. In it, the Trussell Trust reveals the rise of foodbanks linked to the roll-out of Universal Credit.

The statistics are sobering. From April 2017 to March 2018, the Trussell Trust’s foodbank network supplied 1,332,952 three-day emergency food supplies. This was a 13% increase from the year before. Of these, 484,026 supplies went to children.

I will pause and let you process that.

Our families are so hard up, not being given enough money to live on, that almost half a million children have been found in need of emergency food supplies.

The main reasons for being referred to a food bank were:

  1. low income (on benefits, not earning)
  2. benefit delay
  3. benefit change
  4. debt

I have argued before that a universal basic income would remove the first three reasons – if everyone in the country gets enough to live on, you eradicate the lowest level of poverty instantly. UBI does not need to be high – £4500 has been shown to be a workable figure which keeps food on the table for families, removing children from extreme poverty.

The Trussell Trust shows the figures going back to 2012-13, when the number of 3-day emergency supply packs given out was 346,992. Almost four times as many packs are being given out now.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 55 Comments

We need to ban upskirting

Lib Dem members yesterday would have received an email from our Bath MP Wera Hobhouse asking for support in her campaign to get upskirting banned.

If you want to sign the petition, the link is here.

What is upskirting? The OED defines it as “the action or practice of surreptitiously taking photos or videos at an angle so as to see up a woman’s skirt or dress.”

It is sickening and appalling that people even think they have the right to do this!

Wera is calling for upskirting to be made a criminal …

Posted in News | Tagged , and | 4 Comments

New report out shows more paediatric consultants needed

As a mother of three, we have been to A & E more times than I would have liked and have had help from paediatricians and other consultants. The NHS is wonderful!

But sorely understaffed.

A report out today by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, “Facing the Future Audit 2017”, has recommended drastic increases in staff to meet need. Up to 752 more paediatric consultants are required across the UK: 520-554 in England; 84-110 in Scotland; 84–91 in Wales; and 30-31 in Northern Ireland.

There are clearly not enough paediatric consultants …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | Leave a comment

New Committee report out saying tenants needed more protection

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has released a report today saying that the “most vulnerable tenants need greater legal protections from retaliatory evictions, rent increases and harassment so they are fully empowered to pursue complaints about repairs and maintenance in their homes.”

This report on the private rented sector found that many properties were sub-standard, calling on the Government to address the ‘clear power imbalance’, with

tenants often unwilling to complain to landlords about conditions in their homes such as excess cold, mould or faulty wiring.

I am appalled that this …

Posted in News | Tagged , , , and | 7 Comments
Advert



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarSean Hagan 19th Jan - 6:11pm
    @Michael BG - thank you for clarifying the basis of your calculations surrounding the parliamentary arithmetic. However, although your numbers seem to add up (give...
  • User AvatarMick Taylor 19th Jan - 5:46pm
    Jayne MANSFIELD: Flattering as it is to be compared to Buddy Holly, the image is of me, aged 18, speaking at the 1968 Liberal Assembly...
  • User AvatarSean Hagan 19th Jan - 5:28pm
    P.S. Further to my previous comments ... As others have implored, it would be helpful if political comment on LDV could be conducted on the...
  • User AvatarTrevor Smith 19th Jan - 4:57pm
    I was chair when I got the change from UULS ( Union of University Liberal Societies) essentially a federal student body) to ULS - the...
  • User AvatarSean Hagan 19th Jan - 4:23pm
    @Katherine Pindar - yes indeed, wise words (again) from Sir John who, in hindsight, was perhaps a rather better ex-PM than he is generally given...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 19th Jan - 4:09pm
    @ Simon Hebditch "or am I wrong ?" No, Simon, you are completely correct............. yet some of the early middle aged Lib Dem establishment just...