The Green Party General Election candidate for Darlington has launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover his costs.
Mike Cherrington, who has lived in the town for more than 20 years, hopes to raise £500 to cover the costs of his campaign.
Mr Cherrington said that because he has worked in social care and mental health services for the past 20 years, he has seen the negative impact of cuts to health and social care, and is strongly against the privatisation of the NHS.
He also aims to get young people involved and interested in politics, and hopes to provide support for small businesses in the town, as well as challenging inequality in Darlington so all residents have equal opportunities and are paid the living wage.
Having worked in Middlesbrough with victims of sexual abuse, Mr Cherrington believes victims of crime should be treated with dignity and respect and believes restorative justice should be used to help prevent reoffending.
“I am not a politician and have never been involved in politics before. I feel very passionately about standing and making a change for people,” he said.
“The Green Party is a positive alternative for the community and one that brings hope.”
Hundreds of thousands of employment and support allowance (ESA) claimants face being stripped of their benefits if they refuse to undergo treatment for anxiety and depression, under radical plans being proposed by ministers.
Existing welfare rules mean it is not possible to require claimants to have treatment, such as therapy or counselling, as a condition of receiving ESA. However, it has emerged that the roll-out of further mandatory pilot schemes are planned over the next few weeks.
One trial began last month, looking at combining “talking therapies” with employment support. Three further trials being launched this summer are intended to test different ways of linking mental health services with support for benefit claimants seeking work:
- Using group work “to build self-efficacy and resilience to setbacks” faced by job seekers
- Providing access to online mental health and work assessment and support
- Third parties, commissioned by Jobcentre Plus, to provide telephone-based psychological and employment-related support
The aim is to get people with mental health problems off benefits and back into work, so saving the government crucial spending on the welfare bill.
The proposal will, however, raise ethical questions about whether the state should have the power to force patients to undergo treatment. According to the statistics, 46% of ESA claimants have mental health problems.
The Telegraph claims a senior government source told them:
“We know that depression and anxiety are treatable conditions. Cognitive behavioural therapies work and they get people stable again but you can’t mandate people to take that treatment.
“But there are loads of people who claim ESA who undergo no treatment whatsoever. It is bizarre. This is a real problem because we want people to get better.
“These are areas we need to explore. The taxpayer has committed a lot of money but the idea was never to sustain them for years and years on benefit. We think it’s time for a rethink.”
Tom Pollard, policy and campaigns manager at Mind, the mental health charity, said:
“If people are not getting access to the support they need, the government should address levels of funding for mental health services rather than putting even more pressure on those supported by benefits and not currently well enough to work.
“Talking therapies can be effective, but it is often a combination of treatments which allow people to best manage their symptoms and engaging in therapy should be voluntary.”
Norman Lamb, the Lib Dem health minister, said mandating mental health treatment for benefit claimants would not work and was “not a sensible idea”.
“The idea that you frogmarch someone into therapy with the threat of a loss of benefits simply won’t work,” he said. “It is not a question of whether tough love is a good concept.
“You actually need someone to go into therapy willingly.”
Read the full story in The Telegraph
Source – Benefits & Work, 14 July 2014
The economic crisis in Europe and North America led to more than 10,000 extra suicides, according to figures from UK researchers.
A study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, showed “suicides have risen markedly“.
The research group said some deaths may have been avoidable as some countries showed no increase in suicide rate.
Campaign groups said the findings showed how important good mental health services were.
The study by the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine analysed data from 24 EU countries, the US and Canada.
It said suicides had been declining in Europe until 2007. By 2009 there was a 6.5% increase, a level that was sustained until 2011.
It was the equivalent of 7,950 more suicides than would have been expected if previous trends continued, the research group said.
Deaths by suicide were also falling in Canada, but there was a marked increase when the recession took hold in 2008, leading to 240 more suicides.
The number of people taking their own life was already increasing in the US, but the rate “accelerated” with the economic crisis, leading to 4,750 additional deaths.
The report said losing a job, having a home repossessed and being in debt were the main risk factors.
However, some countries bucked the trend. Sweden, Finland and Austria all avoided increases in the suicide rate during the recession.
One of the researchers, Dr Aaron Reeves, of the University of Oxford, said: “A critical question for policy and psychiatric practice is whether suicide rises are inevitable.”
‘Policy potentially matters’
He told the BBC: “There’s a lot of good evidence showing recessions lead to rising suicides, but what is surprising is this hasn’t happened everywhere – Austria, Sweden and Finland.
“It shows policy potentially matters. One of the features of these countries is they invest in schemes that help people return to work, such as training, advice and even subsidised wages.
“There are always hard choices to make in a recession, but for me one of the things government does is provide support and protection for vulnerable groups – these services help people who are bearing the brunt of an economic crisis.”
Andy Bell, of the Centre for Mental Health, said: “The study says what we feared for some time: that unemployment, job insecurity and many other factors associated with the recession are associated with poor mental health and suicide.
“It reminds us how important it is to respond to that need and take preventative action where we can, and that primary care is properly resourced and able to identify people who are at risk.”
Beth Murphy, of the charity Mind, said: “Since 2008, we’ve seen an increasing number of people contact the Mind Infoline concerned about the impact of money and unemployment on their mental health.
“Redundancy and other life circumstances brought about by the recession can trigger depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts for anyone, whether they have previously experienced a mental health problem or not.
“For some people, these factors can become so difficult to cope with that suicide may feel like the only option.”
Source – BBC News, 12 June 2014
A North East MP has entered the row over proposed changes to mental health services that will see scores of jobs lost in the North East.
Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery says vulnerable patients and their families are left feeling abandoned by plans to alter the way that important services are delivered in the region.
Controversial plans have been made by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust to close mental health wards, relocate service and develop new units.
Mr Lavery said: “I have met with a number of my constituents who use the services and they feel that they are being abandoned by the mental health trust.
“It really concerns me the planned changes that have been made. We cannot sit back and say that everything is fine because the reality is that it is not. These changes will put real and increased strain on patients and their families.
“We cannot get rid of such critical services. It would appear that these changes are being made to cut costs with patients not being the main focus.”
Under the proposals, as many as 169 frontline NHS posts will be axed and more than 90 beds reduced as more care is delivered in the community.
Each year since 2010, the trust has been required to make savings of approximately £12m while meeting the same levels of demand.
Health chiefs are adamant that the proposals will significantly improve patient care while delivering cost savings to ensure services remain viable in the long-term.
James Duncan, acting chief executive of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust said: “We have listened very carefully to the feedback we have received from service users, carers and our partners in recent years so that we can play our part in providing the best modern mental health services for local people, designed around their needs.
“Building on this, we have embarked on a challenging transformation programme to ensure that our services continue to be high quality, are easier to access and provide the best value for money.
“It is important to remember that the vast majority of people who use our services are supported in the community, with only about 3% needing to spend time in hospital. Alongside changes to inpatient services, we have also seen significant improvements in mental health services locally.”
Staff at the health trust have undergone a consultation process and a number of public engagement events have taken place to discuss the proposals.
It is expected that all the changes will be in place within the next two to three years.
Source – Newcastle Journal 05 May 2014
Fears have been expressed for some of the region’s most vulnerable patients after it emerged more than 150 frontline NHS posts will be cut.
As many as 169 posts at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust will be lost under radical plans to change the way that care is delivered to mental health patients.
Nurses are set to be the worst hit, though a total of 867 employees will be affected as staff may be required to change their place of work or undergo different shift patterns.
Plans put forward for consultation will see wards close, services relocated and the development of new units as the trust aims to reduce costs by 20% over a five-year period.
Health chiefs have insisted that the changes will significantly improve patient services, but staff and unions have raised fears over employees’ safety and future staffing levels.
Glenn Turp, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, said: “Trust management have told us that although they are endeavouring to redeploy all of the staff who are affected by the restructuring, they can not give guarantees that all staff will be redeployed, and as a consequence they have issued ‘advance notice of redundancy forms’ affecting around 170 staff.
“The fact remains that local NHS employers are in the invidious position of having to make huge cost savings that are not deliverable without having a negative impact on patient care, frontline staffing and inpatient activity.”
Thirteen new schemes will be introduced across the region covering all aspects of mental health, including older people’s services, psychiatric intensive care and male high dependency.
Community services will be enhanced so that fewer people will require hospital admission.
It is believed that more than 90 beds will be reduced and new ways of accessing treatment introduced for those with psychosis, non-psychosis, cognitive disorders and learning disability.
A mental health nurse, who has asked not to be named, said: “A number of challenging patients who used to be managed within the hospital setting are now going to have to be cared for in the community.
“Without significant additional investment in community services and staff, this will put significant pressure on both the patients themselves, and their families who will be increasingly relied upon to provide support when NHS staff are not available.
“For those patients who do not have a supportive family network, this may put both their health and safety at risk.
“The public should be concerned about the scale and the nature of this restructuring, because it looks as if community care is being delivered on the cheap. That has implications for everyone.”
The trust is currently working with staff on the proposals and a number of public consultation events have taken place. It is expected that the changes will come into force within the next two to three years.
A spokesperson for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust said: “Service users, carers, the voluntary sector and our commissioners and local authorities have been involved for many months in developing our plans for mental health services across Northumberland, Tyne and Wear.
“The vast majority of our services are provided in the community with only 3% of our patients ever needing to go to hospital, yet we spend more than 50% of our resources for services on our inpatient beds.
“Our aim is to improve quality in both our inpatient and community services whilst at the same time meeting the cost savings required of us.
“In terms of our inpatient beds, the trust currently has over 650 beds and as an example, in the last three weeks we have used in the order of 470 beds each day.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 23 April 2014
A powerful new film captures the desperate real experiences of being judged “fit for work” for people with mental health problems.
Tyneside Mind launched a short film highlighting the real experiences of three local people with mental health problems undergoing Work Capability Assessment.
The film ‘But I’m here for mental health – three stories of the Work Capability Assessment’ used actors to tell the genuine stories of individuals who were deemed ‘fit for work’ by Atos Healthcare despite the severity of their mental health problems and the significant barriers they face to get into work.
Local MP’s were invited to the showing which was be aired for the first time at Northumbria University Cinema last week.
The film tells the story of two men unfairly dismissed from work due to ill health and one woman whose sleep apnoea and depression prevent her from being able to work. In a particularly poignant moment in the film one man, who can’t write because he has carpal tunnel syndrome, has to admit to his elderly mother that he has contemplated suicide since losing his job as she fills in the application form on his behalf.
Another scene depicts a lady standing on a bridge thinking about ending her life because she has been told she is fit for work.
“It’s been really traumatic and very confusing for people,” said Oliver Wood, vice chairman of Tyneside Mind, who has himself now been back in work for two years after claiming benefits due to a mental health problem.
“They don’t really understand the process or how, when they are really very unwell, seeing senior hospital consultants and receiving support from mental health services, they are being declared fully fit to work because they are physically capable.”
Currently 37% of all North East appeals against decisions to change or remove Employment Support Allowance are successful, which rises to more than two in five for cases involving mental and behavioural disorders.
But Oliver points to Department of Work and Pensions figures for Northumberland, Tyne and Wear which suggest that over the past eight months an average of 2,200 claimants a month – including many with mental health problems – have had their benefits sanctioned and 1,700 a month have given up their claims.
One fear is that many people with mental health problems may be suffering in silence, due to the increasing “stigma” of being on benefits.
The film uses reconstruction to depict service users’ real stories, interspersed with verbatim quotes from Tyneside Mind service users.
With funding from The Millfield House Foundation and support from Helix Arts and Tyneside Mind, the film has been produced by Meerkat Films to help raise awareness of the devastating impact this assessment process can have on vulnerable individuals with complex and fluctuating conditions.
The release of the film also coincides with the Litchfield Review – the fourth annual Independent Review of the Work Capability Assessment, which is currently used to determine eligibility for the out-of-work benefit Employment and Support Allowance.
Over a third of assessments involve people who have applied primarily due to a mental health problem and many more applicants experience a mental health problem alongside other illnesses or disabilities. Yet, the film aims to show that the assessment is not suitable for people with mental health problems, and often actually pushes many people further away from the workplace by exacerbating their mental health problems and directing them to inappropriate support and expectations.
Stuart Dexter, Chief Executive of Tyneside Mind, said: “At Tyneside Mind we help people every week with benefits-related enquiries, and our resources are increasingly stretched.
“The people we represent are still not getting a fair outcome from the Work Capability Assessment. The assessment process is not sensitive enough to recognise the impact a mental health problem can have on someone’s ability to work, and can cause a great deal of stress, especially for those who get an unfair decision and then have to go through a lengthy and costly appeals process. This film aims to highlight what it’s really like for the many individuals subjected to this process and urge the Department for Work and Pensions to urgently improve the system.”
Steve, whose name has been changed, but who speaks of his experience of the Work Capability Assessment in the film, said: “The whole assessment process was so traumatic that I really didn’t think I’d be able to recover from it, let alone talk about it.
“Unfortunately I know that there are so many others like me who have felt humiliated and had their views neglected.
“Tyneside Mind suggested I get involved with this project and I wanted to help because I feel it’s so important to raise awareness of the way vulnerable people are being treated. I hope this film will help change things so nobody else will have to endure what I did.”
Source – Newcastle Journal, 27 Dec 2013