Select Committee on Health Second Report


255. We recognise that mental health is a major public health issue and we welcome the Government's inclusion of mental health as one of the four key priorities in Saving Lives. There are strong links between mental illness and inequality. The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health has described these:

  • people with mental illness suffer from a range of inequalities and this effect is most pronounced with severe mental illness;
  • inequality and social exclusion can lead to mental health problems or exacerbate the disabilities which arise from mental illness;
  • people with mental health problems tend to migrate to areas of high deprivation, which also engender greater levels of mental health problems in their populations;
  • together these effects result in geographical, social and cultural concentrations of mental health problems, particularly in areas of economic deprivation.[345]

256. In our recent report on the Provision of NHS Mental Health Services we highlighted:

"The importance of an adequate income, secure accommodation, social interaction and meaningful day-time activity occurred time and time again in both the oral and written evidence we received, from users and carers, from professional bodies and from research-based organisations. While it may seem self-evident that good quality health and social care services will only be effective if the user of those services has enough money to live on, somewhere safe to live and something constructive to do during the day, the truth is that the professionals delivering "mental health" services have not traditionally seen it as their role, or been in a position, to do a great deal about these factors."[346]

257. One of our recommendations was that the Disabled Person's Tax Credit should be extended to those working fewer than 16 hours per week and that the period for which benefit claims may be suspended, rather than closed, when individuals leave benefit to go into work, should be extended to a year.[347] We also called for a more joined-up approach by the statutory agencies and central government[348] and highlighted the problems caused for the voluntary sector by the "uncertain nature of the funding system." We recommended that health authorities should apply the same principles to their voluntary sector service agreements as they are required to do in their NHS agreements: that is, that they should set up three year rolling agreements, subject to adequate review and appraisal arrangements.[349] We were pleased that the DoH accepted this recommendation.[350] As we have seen, all of these issues also arose during our current inquiry. We have not, however, focused on mental health issues in this report.

345   Response to the Green Paper on Public Health, Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health, May 1998. Back

346   Fourth Report of the Health Committee, Session 1999-2000, The Provision of NHS Mental Health Services, (HC 373), para 37. Back

347   Ibid para 47. Back

348   Ibid paras 47-48. Back

349   Ibid para 104. Back

350   The Department agreed that, "wherever practicable, health and local authorities should enter into longer term contractual agreements and apply the same principle to their voluntary sector service agreements as they are required to do in their NHS and social care agreements. This will be communicated to health and local authorities in future guidance." Government Response to the Health Committee's report (Cm 4888). Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 28 March 2001