You are here

Mental health motion at TUC receives wide support

10 September, 2018
Gareth Thomas
Gareth Thomas

The immediate past president of the Society, Gareth Thomas, spoke eloquently in support of a campaign to improve funding for mental health services at this year's TUC conference

A composite motion from the Society and UNISON condemned the lack of trained staff or funding for the support and treatment of mental health patients.

Gareth said that “Systematic under-funding of mental health services continues. Cuts have led led to a situation where there is enormous demand with little capacity to meet the need. In the five years up to 2016, mental health trusts in England have had £600 million slashed from their budgets.

"Meanwhile the number of people seeking help has jumped by almost 500,000 a year," Gareth continued.

"Patients in crisis are forced to attend A&E, where attendance by mental health patients has increased by 50%."

Other unions lined up at the podium to pledge their support for the SoR/UNISON composite, including CWU, USDAW, Equity, and TSSA.

Gareth advised delegates that "The mental health crisis can only be properly addressed by adopting an holistic approach which must involve not just the NHS, but also social care, education, youth work, housing and policing.

The motion also asks for government and employers to act to strengthen employment rights for mental health patients.

“We must have improvements in how employers are tackling the causes of work-related stress, which can cause or exacerbate mental ill health," Gareth said.

“The rise in insecure work, the fall in real wages and the frequent removal of sick pay provisions are all factors which have contributed significantly to the mental health crisis.

The text of Composite Motion 12 Mental Health
Congress believes the government’s claim to have brought about “parity of esteem” between mental and physical health in England lies in tatters.

Recent UK polling shows that concern about mental health has doubled in the last year.

The systemic underfunding of mental health services, beds and training provision has had a progressive and continuing detrimental impact on both staff and service users at the same time as austerity generally has contributed to increasing mental ill health.

Congress shares the concerns of MPs that proposals to transform mental health care for young people through maximum waiting times and improved support in schools will take too long to effect real change and fails to address the wider population.

Congress is alarmed that yet again the crucial issue of improved social care funding has been postponed, with the green paper delayed until autumn 2018.

Congress believes the mental health crisis can only be properly addressed by adopting an holistic approach that involves not just the NHS, but also social care, education, youth work, housing and also policing.

Congress welcomes improvements in awareness of mental health with long-held taboos beginning to be overcome. The increase in the level of awareness has led to a spike in those seeking help and put a strain on NHS mental health services.

The lack of any appreciable increase in trained staff or funding for mental health amount to real-terms cuts. Those that cannot afford to pay for private services are waiting for essential help in their time of highest need.

Many GPs suggest that vulnerable people seek help from workplace occupational health departments as an alternative to mainstream services. However, this shifts the burden of responsibility to already stretched services that were never designed to take the overspill or to act as a stopgap for NHS services. Many workers, including freelance and atypical workers, have no access to any workplace occupational health or support services.

Congress asserts that mental health is also a workplace issue and that there is a need to ensure improvements in how employers are tackling the causes of work-related stress, which can cause or exacerbate mental ill health. The rise in insecure work, the fall in real wages and the frequent removal of sick pay provisions are all factors which have contributed significantly to the mental health crisis.

Congress supports a campaign to ensure that there are sufficient staff and facilities to meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

Congress calls on the General Council to:

  1. campaign for improved mental health funding across the UK, working with service users and community groups
  2. lobby for the RIDDOR system to be changed so that work-related stress absence is reportable
  3. campaign to ensure that government and employers take action to address the mental health implications of poor employment protections
  4. work with affiliates to organise a concerted trade union response on mental health and wellbeing that expects employers to conduct risk assessments that identify workplace and other risk factors and underlying causes of the condition, before making a commitment to address recommendations
  5. organise a one-day conference in 2019 on mental health in the workplace to bring together unions and organisations specialising in mental health issues
  6. set up a cross-union working group on mental health to share best practice and co-ordinate campaigning 

Content tools

Accessibility controls

Text size

AA A

Colour