Labour – the only party with a race equality strategy for mental health

In January Ed Miliband’s Independent Taskforce led by Sir Stephen O’Brien launched its report completed a report called The Mentally Healthy Society this will form the basis of a mental health strategy for a future Labour government.

The report has over 40 recommendations covering a wide range of issues from children, education, employment, housing, early intervention, equalities. Ed Miliband made some specific commitments drawn from the report as a key election pledges:

  • to increase the proportion of the mental health budget spent on child and adolescent mental health services
  • to ensure that in future all teachers have training in mental health
  • in government, to set out a strategy and timetable to implement a 28-day waiting-time target for access to talking therapies for both adults and children, and to ensure that all childr​en can have access to school-based counselling if they need it.

The Taskforce report makes a specific recommendation for race equality:

“The previous government’s action plan on BAME mental health, Delivering Race Equality, ended in 2010 and has not been renewed or replaced. We want to see a renewed focus and leadership on tackling race inequality in mental health services for both young people and adults…. The Department of Health should develop a new national strategy to tackle race inequality in mental health services, including on workforce development and leadership, and improve outcomes for BAME communities. It must be clear about what indicators will be used to measure progress, and what success will look like. This should include a national framework through which commissioners and providers at local level can be held more accountable for developing and delivering their own plans to achieve this.”

The report recommendations if delivered by a Labour government will make a difference to all communities and especially to the black community. This is a major achievement which was back up Ed Miliband’s pledge in tackling race inequality issues in a recent interview with The Voice Newspaper and also speaking at event organised by Operation Black Vote during Black History Month in 2014.

However to make this recommendation a reality we need a national equalities health and emotional wellbeing strategy as part of an wider government affirmation action plan. This strategy would be cross governmental but supported by an independent advisory body with a Minister reporting to Parliament. The Advisory body would be representatives from a whole range of stakeholders such as community representatives reflecting the diversity of the black community, politicians, policy makers, faith, academics, professional bodies, trade unions and clinicians. This strategy would have a distinctive action plan for BAME mental health learning the lessons from Labour’s last plan- Delivering Race Equality Strategy (2007-2010). The action plan needs to far reaching with real resources and clear links of accountability to system partners and players. This programme of work needs to holistic and creative in approach to build trusts and co-production between the community and the mainstream stakeholders.

The recent Care Quality Commission (CQC) annual monitoring report of the Mental Health Act which has also incorporated the learning since the inception of the Act in 1985 further highlighted the over representation of African and Caribbean men and women who are sectioned in secure wards or on Community Treatment Order in the psychiatric system. The CQC have revised the code of practice which recognise issues around race equality as part of wider perspectives and principles of human rights.

Labour is the only party to make a commitment to race equality and mental health. Chuka Ummna and Sadiq Khan will be both launching Labour’s BAME Manifesto during the General Election campaign which highlight the importance of why BAME voters need to support Labour to victory in May 2015.

First published on Labour List