Earlier this week, United Response submitted our proposals to the Government’s call for evidence as it begins developing its Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan for England.

The Plan forms part of the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ policy, intended to be a cross-departmental strategy delivered over ten years aimed at “improving mental health and wellbeing outcomes, particularly for people who experience worse outcomes than the general population.”

Members of the public were invited by the Department of Health and Social Care to contribute their ideas and lived experiences through an online survey to help shape the new Plan.

In our submission, United Response answered four key questions on how best we think that the Government can support disabled people and the wider social care sector.

The questions we responded to include:  

  • How can we all prevent the onset of mental ill-health?
  • How can we all intervene earlier when people need support with their mental health?
  • How can we improve the quality and effectiveness of treatment for mental health conditions?
  • How can we all support people living with mental health conditions to live well?

We’re calling on government to:

  • Implement an awareness-raising programme aimed at adults drawing on social care of their rights and protections available to them during times of mental health crises.  
  • Devise and pilot a dedicated training programme in close consultation with stakeholders for health and social care professionals on engaging with autistic patients, as well as patients with learning and intellectual disabilities, to make service provision more accessible from the outset of care journeys.
  • Recognise the unique vulnerability to mental health challenges frontline social care workers face in their duties, particularly in a post-COVID context, and implement a fast-track mental assessment process and targeted support for the social care workforce.
  • Implement the new guiding principles recommended by the White Paper on Reforming the Mental Health Act as a matter of urgency, to reform the Act’s provision of services into a more person-centred system where disabled people are given better choices and accessible information about their care options
  • Commission a large-scale study and data collection exercise to measure the impact of social prescribing, to develop a standardised evaluation framework and performance standards.
  • Recognise social isolation and loneliness as key mental health challenges to people who are autistic and or live with a learning/intellectual disability, and invest in a data collection exercise to measure the impact of social prescribing to develop a standardised evaluation framework and performance standards 
  • Invest in additional advocacy services provided to disabled citizens and their families at the point of need, empowering them to actively pursue redress and better care during a crisis.
  • Publish a renewed and updated Hate Crime Action Plan that offers an explicit parity of protection to victims of disability-motivated hate crime, as recommended by the Law Commission in its recent review
  • Provide greater and more explicit protections for disabled people in the Online Safety Bill, placing a greater onus on social media companies to tackle abusive language and harassing behaviour against disabled users.

Who will this affect?

The government’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Plan is intended to cover as broad an audience as possible, but they are particularly interested in hearing from:

  • children and young people, adults, and older adults who have experienced mental ill-health
  • people who have cared for someone affected by mental ill-health
  • people who work or volunteer in health and social care services who support people with their mental health
  • people who work or volunteer in places where they meet people who are affected by mental ill-health (such as schools, job centres and housing associations)
  • academics and experts who work on mental health

What happens now?

The public consultation closed on 7 July 2022.

The Department of Health and Social Care will examine the different responses it received over the next several months and will contact members of the public if they would like to follow up on any of their suggestions.

In the meantime, we’ll continue campaigning to address barriers to better mental healthcare for our community members, especially as the draft Mental Health Bill makes its way through Parliament.

How does this tie in with United Response’s other projects?

Much of what we recommended touched on our work around supported living, especially around better education on mental health needs and bespoke services and offerings for people we support. 

We want to ensure that individuals can access help at the point of need, whenever they need it and can make decisions about their care plans. Closely tied to this is the need for crisis support and devising better training for carers and professionals to intervene earlier.

We also called for better workplace support for our community members in supported employment, so that their colleagues and employers can be better equipped to help them during challenging times.

We also spoke about the need for better legal protections for victims of disability hate crimes. There is currently no parity afforded to victims under British law.

Our Am I Your Problem? campaign showed the impacts on disabled people’s mental health as a result of hidden discrimination, exclusion and poor protection of their rights.

You can read our submission to the Department in full here.

Find out more about our policy work here.