At last, the speculation is over, the date has been set and the campaigns have begun.  4th July is when the nation will go to the polls and cast their votes to who will run the country for possibly the next five years.  Regardless of who wins the race to 10 Downing Street, there are some clear priorities that as a leading health and social charity care provider, we at AFG believe need to be addressed as soon as the die is cast in early July.

It’s not all about NHS waiting lists

Although there is no doubt that those awaiting necessary treatment need to be seen as soon as possible, the NHS waiting list and backlog rhetoric masks the real tsunami that is hitting the NHS – the mental health crisis.  We know that public mental health resilience has declined rapidly in the last five years – the charity MIND estimates that one in four people will now experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England. That has increased from one in six in 2014 according to the ‘Mental Health and Wellbeing in England’ survey undertaken by the government. Or put in real terms an 8.5% increase or a staggering 14 million people today suffering from a mental health condition.

And the vector is only going in one direction.   The new government needs to prioritise mental health services in the NHS, and fast.  It needs to implement clear and quick reform of the Mental Health Act, invest more in mental health funding at both a community and in patient services level and increase the capacity of provision to meet demand. 

Adults with learning disabilities need to stop being treated as second class citizens

“Fixing social care” or social care reform is more than just how we fund and provide for our care when we are elderly. There is a forgotten, but just as important, group of society that are living with us, unseen – the 1.8m adults who are registered with a learning disability and the millions of others who need specialist care and support to live normal and active lives.

For far too long they have been treated as second class citizens, neglected in funding and prioritisation within social care. If the party who gains power come the Summer has one clear focus, it needs to bring greater public awareness of adult disability, equity in its funding and fair policies in place that puts those adults needing social care, whatever their age, upfront and centre of the political agenda. For far too long, the provision of support for adults with a learning disability has been driven by cost, rather than being person-centred, resulting in those being supported having limited choices about how they can live their lives.

Finally, as the Chief Executive of an organisation whose aim is to enable those we support to achieve independence, thrive and flourish, we have a duty to ensure those with a mental health or a learning disability have a voice and a vote in this election. For all the political parties talk of inclusivity and a fair society, we still have one that is massively swayed towards the able, that is prejudice against those who need care, where those with mental illness or learning disability are still lower down the priority list and where their lives are compromised by lack of awareness, fairness and equality.

The General Election gives all the parties an opportunity to set out new commitments for the next 5 years. I strongly urge them to ensure their plans equally prioritise the most vulnerable in our society and equip them with the support to live independent lives.