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“I can commit to looking at it” – BASW/APPG inquiry gains traction

The co-produced 'Social Workers and a New Mental Health Act is raised in a House of Commons debate...

BASW continues to influence policy makers as its recent inquiry Social Workers and a New Mental Health Act was one of the key topics discussed last Thursday during a House of Commons debate on the Mental Health Act 1983.

The inquiry, co-produced with the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Work, made eight recommendations to promote the social model of health within new mental health legislation.

One such recommendation, raised by the APPG’s chair Alex Cunningham MP, drew a response from the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Health and Social Care) Jackie Doyle Price that she would “commit to looking” at the inquiry:

Alex Cunningham MP: Recognising that specialist provision might be 150 miles away, will the Minister accept the recommendation from the APPG inquiry that families who do not have the means should be funded so they can visit and spend time with their loved one?

Jackie Doyle Price MP: I cannot commit to delivering that, but I can commit to looking at it. I hope that is good enough for the hon. Gentleman.

The inquiry was referred to a few times during the debate:

Kevan Jones MP: The all-party parliamentary group on social work has just conducted an inquiry on that subject. I am not going to steal the thunder of my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton North (Alex Cunningham), who chaired the inquiry. It was very informative, and I was privileged to be involved in it.

The disconnection and lack of integration between local councils and the health service is clearly an issue, and it is not necessarily just down to money; it is also to attitudes. The system needs to be put back together. It is no good telling somebody who is in a mental health crisis, “I’m sorry, but you are not my responsibility; that is a local authority issue,” if they present to the NHS or vice versa. That needs to be put right.

Alex Cunningham MP: As some colleagues might know, I have the privilege of chairing the all-party parliamentary group on social work. As my right hon. Friend the Member for North Durham (Mr Jones) said, we recently undertook an inquiry on the role that social workers play in upholding the principles outlined in the independent review of the Mental Health Act 1983, and on how that role can be recognised and enhanced in new legislation.

I believe that social workers are regularly, if not always, undervalued, yet their work is incredibly valuable in supporting and helping the most vulnerable people in our society—be it children at risk, older people in need of a bit more support, or families who experience breakdown and need the independent support that a social worker can provide.

Of course, social workers also support people with mental health needs, although many people do not realise the tremendous role that they play in that. They ensure that mental health problems are not a barrier to anybody achieving the things they want, and that people get the appropriate treatment and care that they need.

The full debate can be read here, and the inquiry with recommendations can be viewed here.

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