Norman Lamb on the party’s prospects, leadership, mental health and the benefits system

We know that many aspects of the welfare reforms have been very difficult for people with mental ill health. Norman Lamb is aware of that too, and sets out what he wants to do to change that in an interview with the International Business Times:

Lamb, who said he was pleased with the progress the government has made on mental health, wants to join up the benefits and health system.

“One of the things that sometimes happens if you are suffering from mental ill health, is that sometimes that you don’t turn up in time you may be in a dark place, struggling to cope on a particular day. The idea of sanctioning that person because of their ill health is something that I’m very resistant to,” he said.

“My mission in trying to link up better the NHS and the benefits system is to ensure that the two systems work rationally together and indeed we are doing a lot to make it much easier for people who are out of work and often because of their mental ill health, to get access to psychological therapies, which can help people recover and often get them back to work.”

Lamb added: “Often work is a good thing for your mental health – it improves your self-esteem and your sense of self-belief. We shouldn’t be trying to resist the idea of helping getting people back to work but we need to make sure that the benefits system is sensitive to the needs of people who suffer from mental ill health.

“We are a long way away from having a properly joined up system and I repeat that I will continue my mission to make sure that the benefits system is sensitive to those who suffer from mental ill health.”

He was also very clear that charges for core services were not acceptable:

I don’t believe in charges. I think the risk is that you undermine one of the core principles of the NHS, which is equity – that you get access regardless of your ability to pay,” Lamb declared.

He was bullish about our prospects and very complimentary about Nick Clegg:

In time, history will judge us positively about the role we played: providing stability and trying to secure a balance between building a strong economy, discipline on public finances and also trying to build a fairer system.”

As for Clegg, Lamb offered a positive spin on the Ashcroft research. The poll “showed a narrowing of the gap”, he pointed out.

“Nick is getting closer and I’m a very strong supporter of Nick. I think he’s played a heroic role in this Coalition and I think the Coalition itself has delivered for this country through a very difficult period,

You can read the whole article here.

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7 Comments

  • Tsar Nicholas 11th Apr '15 - 9:36am

    Norman misses the basic point about the benefits system which is that too many people are being denied help and end up in despair because they are unable to supply the most basic of their needs – such as the need for food.

    The dismantling of the welfare system (why do we now call it welfare instead of social security – is that a linguistic trick to make people feel it’s a bit frivolous?) began under Labour but has accelerated under The Coalition.

    I was active in the Party for a number of decades but I simply can’t forgive it for forcing people to choose between malnourishment and food banks in an economy which, despite all the propaganda, has far more than two million unemployed and which does not have work for all who need it.

  • I will be voting Labour in May but history will be relatively kind to the coalition, which provided stability during a difficult period.

  • Philip Thomas 11th Apr '15 - 10:46am

    Well, I think what Norman Lamb *is* saying sounds reasonably welcome. I have wondered whether it would be possible for the health assessments the Government pays for anyway to be done by the NHS instead of a private company. Obviously this would considerably increase the burden on already stretched NHS resources, but the transfer of the money already being spent on the process would balance this and there would be obvious advantages in terms of joined-up government.

    I

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Apr '15 - 12:38pm

    Norman Lamb is right to now be focusing on welfare sanctions and mental health.

    In terms of party prospects: the Conservatives in my area have just distributed their first batch of leaflets. I wasn’t expecting much, but they’ve gone ultra local (ward level) and even a mobile number for their candidate on a leaflet.

    I think they’ve probably left it too late, but it is professional.

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Apr '15 - 1:14pm

    PS, the Conservatives come with a smiley face, but we know the government would have been a nightmare without Lib Dems.

    But my point remains the same. The Conservatives doubling down with personal touch in the last few weeks should be enough to strike fear in any non Conservative supporter.

  • Jane Ann Liston 11th Apr '15 - 5:39pm

    ‘We shouldn’t be trying to resist the idea of helping getting people back to work but we need to make sure that the benefits system is sensitive to the needs of people who suffer from mental ill health.’

    I fear that the present system whereby all the responsibility is placed upon the unemployed person could be making people mentally ill. Having been unemployed for nearly 4 years, I know that my confidence has plummeted. The last thing I need is an adviser suggesting that it is my fault alone that I am failing to get jobs, without acknowledging that one cannot force an employer to hire someone, or even shortlist them, and that sometimes that happens, even when there is nothing wrong with the application.

  • Alex Sabine 12th Apr '15 - 1:25pm

    I agree with Norman Lamb’s comments both about welfare-to-work and benefit sanctions.

    Tsar Nicholas: Labour increased social security spending by 3% per year in sunny economic times and extended the reach of means-tested benefits further up the income scale. If that is “dismantling” welfare what would expanding it look like?

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