Tag Archives: richard allan

Part 2: Lib Dem Peers call for improved mental health services for young people

Yesterday we reported on the debate in the House of Lords on mental health services for children and young people secured by Earl Russell.

We thought you might like to read the other Lib Dem contributions to the debate. First up, Richard Allan who talked, among other things, about the effect of bullying on mental health:

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Russell for securing this debate. Like many others, I am impressed by how quickly he has brought value to the work of this House and by the combination of passion and reasoned argument that he brought to today’s debate.

I congratulate the noble and learned Baroness, Lady Hale, on her maiden speech. I had not realised that she is from Yorkshire but, based on the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, I can say, as a Sheffielder, that we are now on a Yorkshire hat trick as a group of three speakers. In my household, it is not often that we talk about the law as a cool and attractive profession, but the activities of the noble and learned Baroness in her previous role triggered such comments. Based on her contribution today, I am sure that, in future, she will provide examples of how our words here can be both impactful and entertaining. I hope that she does not let her natural diffidence get the better of her too often.

Turning to the subject of the debate, I start with a question: what do we call a family with experience of child mental health issues? The answer is “a normal family”. That has been reflected in the debate, as well as in my noble friend’s contribution as he related his own experience, but I suspect that every person sitting here today has their own direct personal experience of a young person suffering from mental health issues during their childhood, whether through their children, their nieces and nephews, their grandchildren or those children’s cousins. This understanding is necessary not to trivialise the matter—quite the opposite. If we normalise it, we may get to a position where we understand that child mental health issues need to be treated as seriously as other child health conditions, with an infrastructure and an understanding that, as my noble friend said, it is unacceptable to ignore them or somehow treat them as less serious.

The tools that we need to help people are common to all kinds of healthcare. First, we need early and accurate identification of problems. Secondly, we need good availability of the right treatment options; that is the case whether it is a physical issue or a mental health one. There are also four settings that need to work for young people in order to achieve these goals of the identification and treatment of the issues with which they present. The first is families themselves; the noble Baroness, Lady Hollins, referred to the importance of family as the primary setting. The second is the educational institutions in which children find themselves; the third is primary healthcare; and then there are the acute services to which children may need to turn. I will not go into the issues around family support in any depth today other than to flag the fact that families and the care they provide must be recognised and supported. There is an important objective for government in supporting families who provide care for somebody, whether they have a physical condition or a mental health one; that care provides enormous value to the individual but also to society. There are questions around the extent to which, today, government provides the support that those families need.

I turn to educational settings. These are generally schools for younger children but we should not forget the significant role of universities and colleges. That is important because we are talking today about children and young people; to me, that extends through into those university years. It is another period of transition. For many of the young people who reach the age of 18 or 19 and transition to university, that is when the crisis hits. Again, universities have a critical role to play in this.

Major shifts are needed to improve staff training. Staff across all these different kinds of establishment need to be trained in such a way that they can help identify problems, because problems may first present themselves in an interaction between a young person and a professional in an institution. We also need to make sure that counsellors are available when they represent an appropriate form of treatment; they are frequently the first line. The Minister has made commitments around both those aspects previously—the training of all staff in educational establishments where that may be useful in identifying problems; and the provision of counselling services to the right degree so that, when issues have presented themselves, that first line of treatment is available—so I hope that he will be able to demonstrate progress.

I am interested to understand from the Minister how budgets will operate in this space given that it sits between different government departments. The young person does not care that one thing sits with DHSC and another sits with DfE, or whatever acronyms we are using now; they care about whether treatment is available. I hope that the Minister can indicate how we will ensure that budgets follow need rather than being stuck in departmental silos.

I want to touch on bullying, which can be both a cause and an exacerbating factor for somebody with mental health issues: it can trigger the mental health issue but, sadly, the start of bullying can also sometimes be the response of young people to someone in their school who has a mental health issue. It then compounds the crisis that a young person is suffering. The challenge is to have an effective response because these issues are often labour intensive, requiring engagement—often over a long period—with the children and families involved.

As noble Lords may be aware, I have professional experience of the online component of this as I spent many years working at a large online platform. It seems obvious that the nature of bullying has changed with ubiquitous connectivity. However, sometimes, there is also the risk of us seeing the solutions as entirely within the domain of technology. People report bullying to a platform, which can result in the removal of the content and sometimes the closure of the bullying account, but it rarely solves the underlying problem.

In some cases, the bullying is entirely within an online community, but much more typically the online activity is an extension of something that is happening offline in the real world. The intervention that resolves the problem is one that brings young people, parents and others together to discuss the offline and online activity. I understand the challenges for school staff in resourcing this, but some option will have to be found or we will simply be playing whack-a-mole on the online platforms, knocking down individual instances while the young person’s mental health continues to deteriorate because the bullying is moving from place to place and never being addressed at its root causes.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Lord Allan of Hallam’s maiden speech

In recent months, LDV has been bringing its readers copies of our new MPs’ and Peers’ first words in Parliament, so that we can read what is being said and respond. You can find all of the speeches in this category with this link. Last week, Baron Allan of Hallam, of Ecclesall in the County of South Yorkshire (Richard Allan) made his maiden speech in the House of Lords, during a debate on the Comprehensive Spending Review. His words are reproduced below.

My Lords, I thank all those officials and Members who have helped our class of 2010

Posted in Parliament | Also tagged | 1 Comment

Will technology kill bureaucracy?

Earlier today the Liberal Democrats kicked off the process to revise the party’s policy on information technology and intellectual property with a consultation session at the party’s Liverpool conference. Technology is also a theme explored in the Litmus newspaper jointly produced by Lib Dem Voice, Left Foot Forward and Conservative Home, with pieces from Tom Watson, Stephan Shakespeare and Richard Allan on this topic. We’ve reproduced Richard’s piece below and you can read the full newspaper either via the hard copies in conference registration packs or online at www.litmustest.org.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 5 Comments

Digital Economy Bill: Parliamentarians reply to prospective candidates

Yesterday we covered an open letter from 25+ Liberal Democrat prospective Parliamentary candidates (and see also this comment from ex-MP Richard Allan), expressing concerns over the line the party had taken in the House of Lords on a key part of the Digital Economy Bill. The party’s DCMS (Department for Culture, Media and Sport) team has now replied in turn with another public letter.

Two things to note when reading it. First, this sort of public exchange of letters is unusual, but very welcome. Although journalists sometimes struggle with the concept of a party that debates policy openly

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 52 Comments

Twitter and the rise of new media

Something fascinating happened yesterday. I was browsing through one of the internet forums I regularly visit when I noticed someone posting that people should go to the Daily Mail poll page on their website and vote yes to the poll that asks “Should gypsies jump the queue on the NHS?” in order to mess with them.

When I got to the page and duly voted “Yes” I was astonished to see that the poll was at 93% Yes and 7% No. The forum I refer to has nowhere near enough people to make a dent in the thousands who vote in …

Posted in News and Online politics | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , and | 8 Comments

Daily View 2×2: 2 June 2009

2 Big Stories

Expenses ‘mistake’ hangs over Darling
The Financial Times reports that not even the Chancellor himself is blameless in the MPs’ expenses controversy:

Alistair Darling’s future as chancellor was looking precarious on Monday after he admitted making “a mistake” over his expenses and Gordon Brown refused to say whether he would be in his job in 10 days’ time.

Mr Darling yesterday paid back £668 he wrongly claimed and apologised “unreservedly” but speculation was growing at Westminster that he could become the first chancellor in postwar Britain to be demoted in the middle of a recession.

Three things must ye know about …

Posted in Daily View | Also tagged , , , , , , and | 3 Comments

Leadership Platform 3: Nick Clegg – Richard Allan writes…

We all know from experience that election campaigns are 90% perspiration and 10% Riso ink, and this one is no exception. Bu there are always things that keep you going during these marathon efforts.

In Nick’s campaign this has been the endorsements that people have been pouring in on the website. So for today’s campaign update, I thought I’d share what people are saying about Nick – you can add your own endorsement here!

As for what I think about Nick – and why his nickname used to be Grizzly Fish – you can find out in this video by …

Posted in Leadership Election | Also tagged , and | 18 Comments

Ouch! – red faces at Team Clegg

Many Lib Dem members – and The Voice was among them – might have been a tad surprised today to discover an email from ‘teamclegg’ signing them up to Nick Clegg’s e-mail list. Perhaps compulsory e-mail conscription is a first step towards moving the party out of its comfort zone, we might have thought.

The truth turns out to be much simpler, and a little more embarrassing. A red-faced and self-flagellating e-mail swiftly followed from Richard Allan, Nick’s leadership campaign director, and his predecessor as MP for Sheffield Hallam:

Sorry. I’m afraid that I have made something of a cock-up today

Posted in Leadership Election | Also tagged | 18 Comments

Campaign Clegg launches today

Hello, me again. Your regular Lib Dem Voice team are away for the weekend running leadership campaigns or “having a life” and have asked me to stand in. Apparently there’s only so much havoc one can wreak in four days.

Today will see the launch of Nick Clegg’s leadership campaign. Here’s what we’re expecting so far:

  • It will be in Sheffield
  • Former Sheffield Hallam MP Richard Allan is Clegg’s campaign manager
  • Weather permitting, it may be outdoors
  • The web site will be at www.nickclegg.com

As the launch is in Sheffield, I’ll bet you a big slice of cake that an allusion to Nick’s Parliamentary majority …

Posted in Leadership Election and News | Also tagged | 6 Comments
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