Crisis and resistance in mental health services in England

Copyright Mo Stewart
Copyright Mo Stewart

September 5th 2016

Published in the Critical and Radical Social Work international journal, this 2015 academic paper is just in from the team at Liverpool Hope Uni, via ResearchGate, and identifies the crisis in mental health services and the significance of disability activists and service-user campaigns against austerity:

During a similar period the number of nurses working in mental health services has fallen by 3640 and the

number of doctors has dropped by 213 (Cooper 2014).  This has led Simon Wessely, President of the Royal

College of Psychiatry, to describe services as “running dangerously close to collapse” (Cooper 2014), while

for his predecessor, Professor Sue Bailey, they are “a car crash waiting to happen” (Buchanan 2014)…

The requirement for NHS trusts to compete in healthcare markets increasingly results in the contracting

out of community health services to companies such as Virgin Care (Remesh and Lawrence, 2012) diverting

public healthcare funds into corporate profits (Pollock, 2010).

While austerity, managerialism and privatisation reduce and reshape the support available to those experiencing

mental distress, a further reform simultaneously assails mental health service users. The coalition government’s

welfare programme is generating a ‘tsunami of fear’ through draconian elements such as the ‘bedroom tax’ and

the Work Capability Assessment (Butler, 2013; Pring, 2013)…

Austerity policies are clearly benefitting the wealthiest in society. The inequality that this policy framework

exacerbates has been shown to have harmful effects on mental health (Wilkinson and Pickett, 2010).  Rates

of mental health problems show considerable variation between high-income countries, with levels of distress

much higher in unequal countries such as the UK (Pickett and Wilkinson, 2010).  Consequently, the harsh reality

of the coalition government’s austerity agenda is that government policies are likely to further increase already

high levels of mental distress in society at the very time that cuts and privatisation limit the availability of

mental health services to those most in need…

Save Lifeworks activists raised awareness of the occupation through regular stalls, petitioning and leafleting

across the country and a number of local demonstrations and lobbies were organised with solidarity from

trade unions, health campaigners, disability activists from DPAC and anti-austerity groups. This support

strengthened the resolve of the occupiers, and as a result of the campaign’s growing profile the local county

council began to scrutinise and challenge CPFT’s decisions…

The leading role of service users in the campaigns described in this article is clear.

The wider context for this is the rebirth of disability movement activism in response to austerity, which has been forged

by organisations such as DPAC. The role of disability activists in campaigning against and ultimately forcing ATOS, the

private insurance firm tasked with delivering the coalition government’s welfare reforms, to withdraw early from its

contract is a significant backdrop to these successes (Siddique, 2014; Slorach, 2014).

The ‘tsunami of fear’, as identified by Moth et al, continues unabated. The same fatally flawed Work Capability Assessment used to resist funding benefit to the chronically sick and disabled population in the UK is being adopted by other nations, advised by the same UK ‘expert’, whose research has recently been exposed in a damning indictment by distinguished UK academics (attached). Yet this ‘expert’ remains in great demand as neoliberal politics sweeps the globe, and impacts almost limitless damage, as nations attempt to restrict welfare payments and place claimants in jeopardy. ‘Cash Not Care’ is becoming a reality across the world as the UK welfare reforms are adopted in other countries.

The consequences of austerity are gradually being collated, as recently reported by Patrick Bulter in The Guardian on 31st August:

At the same time, the cash value of the basic personal tax allowances is on course to have

increased by 80% in 2020 from what it was in 2010, meaning that by the end of the decade a

typical high-income household will receive more financial support from the state than

low-income families reliant on benefits.

Without an urgent overhaul, the crisis in living standards for poorer families will get worse over

the next few years as their incomes deteriorate, while child poverty and inequality will rise sharply,

even with strong economic growth, the study says…

The study says the case for replacing state protection with private insurance is weak, but it argues

that ideas that compliment a publicly funded social security system, such as match-funded auto-enrolment

savings scheme for low and middle-income households, or an income protection scheme for middle to

high-income workers, should be piloted…

Of course ‘the study’ is recommending ‘insurance’ for the new PM’s ‘compassionate conservatism’ to support social security.

This is the start of the slippery slope towards the long-ago held plan to eventually replace the welfare state with private insurance, which the research has been predicting for 6 years. ‘Godfrey is known to favour developing forms of social insurance in areas such as unemployment and sickness benefit to supplement existing social security support.’  Godfey is the new PM’s director of policy and was the corporate affairs director at Legal & General Insurance.

Following six years of research, the book ‘CASH NOT CARE: the planned demolition of the UK welfare state’ will be released on 14th September and will identify why all this ongoing preventable harm was knowingly created by successive governments, regardless of the negative human consequences and guaranteed suffering of the most vulnerable people in society.

Written for the benefit of the lay reader but attracting a lot of academic interest, CASH NOT CARE will be available as a paperback, hardback and as an eBook, and the A4 referenced text paperback is now available to pre-order at:

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