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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
09 January 2017
Volume 619

Written Statements

Monday 9 January 2017

Cabinet Office

“Securing the ballot”: Government Response

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The Government have published their response to “Securing the ballot”, the review of electoral fraud conducted and published by my right hon. Friend the Member for Brentwood and Ongar (Sir Eric Pickles) in August 2016. I would like to thank my right hon. Friend for the work involved in his comprehensive and detailed report, which the Government believe is an important step in our commitment to tackling all types of electoral fraud in the UK. I add my thanks to all those individuals and organisations who contributed to this important review.

The Government have given each of My right hon. Friend’s 50 recommendations careful consideration. In setting out the Government’s view on each of the recommendations in turn, the response presents a package for reform that will ensure we can build a democracy that is clear and secure. We intend to achieve the changes we propose through a combination of primary and secondary legislation, where parliamentary time allows, and through new or reinforced guidance. As a central part of the reform package, the Government will look to identify legislative opportunities to give electoral administrators greater powers to protect voters from intimidation and undue influence, and to end the dubious practice of postal vote harvesting by political parties.

We will also look to introduce a number of pilot schemes at local government elections in 2018 to trial the use of voter identification in polling stations. The Government agree with my right hon. Friend that asking voters to prove their identity before receiving their ballot paper may be an effective way to enhance the security of the democratic process. Using existing legislative provisions, we will invite those local authorities identified by the Electoral Commission as being at risk of electoral fraud to take part in pilots, as well as authorities who are not considered at risk. The pilots will enable the Government to assess the impact of voter identification on elections in the UK.

The Government are aware of the consequences of devolution for this programme of reform. As with all legislation that relates to the division of competence on electoral matters between the UK Government and the devolved Administrations, we are clear that decisions on these changes are ultimately the responsibility of those Administrations. We will consult with the Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish Administrations to ensure that there is an effective and consistent fit for any changes brought forward.

The response presents a challenging programme of reform, which we will work hard to implement over the coming years. The Government will continue to work closely with the devolved Administrations and with interested organisations to ensure that we can provide a democracy that works for everyone.

Copies of the response will be placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

[HCWS396]

Health

Mental Health

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I would like to update the House following today’s announcement made by the Prime Minister about this Government’s plans to reform mental health services in this country.

For too long those suffering mental illness in England have experienced a hidden injustice. Mental illness has been shrouded in stigma and the needs of those with mental health problems have been neglected compared to those with physical illness. An estimated one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem at any one time and the economic and social cost of mental illness is estimated to be £105 billion a year. Left unaddressed, mental illness can destroy lives, cause untold pain to families and prevent people from fulfilling their potential at work, school or in society.

This Government are determined to address the historic failure—over successive generations and Governments—to tackle mental illness. We are grateful to the Independent Mental Health Taskforce for publishing the Five Year Forward View for Mental Health last year, which set out a clear roadmap for the NHS, our arm’s length bodies and Government. In February, the Department for Health supported their recommendations with an additional investment of £1 billion per year by 2020. NHS England accepted the recommendations for the National Health Service in full and have published an implementation plan. Today the Prime Minister announced that the Government accept all the recommendations made to it by the Independent Taskforce on Mental Health and are publishing an update on our progress against these recommendations. The Government’s response to the Mental Health Taskforce can be viewed online at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-01-09/HCWS397.

But we must go further still. The challenge of mental illness is growing and we must all—at every stage of life and every level in society—take steps to tackle it.

First, because we know that children and young people are most susceptible to mental illness and most disorders originate in childhood, we must make mental health a priority in our classrooms and in our families. The Government have therefore announced a series of steps to ensure children and young people get the support they need. We will:

Commission a major thematic review of children and adolescent mental health services across the country, led by the Care Quality Commission with assistance from Ofsted—the first of its kind.

Bring forward a new Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health later this year, to set out plans to transform services in schools, universities and for families.

Introduce new support for schools with every secondary school in the country to be offered mental health first aid training and new trials to look at how to strengthen the links between schools and local NHS mental health staff.

Develop peer support for children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing—confirming a programme of pilot activity on peer support, as outlined earlier in the year, along with £1.5 million in funding.

Launch a programme of randomised control trials of promising preventative programmes, across three different approaches to mental health promotion and prevention.

Second, we must work with employers to ensure better mental wellbeing in the workplace. Because we know that there are important steps businesses can take to support their workforce, and those that do see benefits in higher productivity and lower absence. The Prime Minister has therefore appointed Lord Dennis Stevenson, the long-time campaigner for greater understanding and treatment of mental illness, and Paul Farmer CBE, CEO of Mind and Chair of the NHS Mental Health Taskforce, to drive work with business and the public sector to support mental health in the workplace. These experts will lead a review on how best to ensure employees with mental health problems are enabled to thrive in the workplace and perform at their best. This will involve practical help including promoting best practice and learning from trailblazer employers, as well as offering tools to organisations, whatever size they are, to assist with employee wellbeing and mental health. We will also review recommendations around discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of mental health.

Third, we need to offer alternatives to hospital to support people in the community. We recognise that seeing a GP or going to A&E is not or does not feel like the right intervention for many people with mental ill-health, the Government will build on their initial £15 million investment to provide and promote new models of community-based care such as crisis cafes and community clinics. The initial £15 million investment led to 88 new places of safety being created. Since 2011-12, there has been an almost 80% reduction in England of people experiencing a mental health crisis being taken to police cells, utilising health-based place of safety, rather than being held in a cell, ensuring people get the best support—in the right place, at the right time, in the right way. The Government now plan to spend up to a further £15 million to build on this success.

Fourth, we will expand treatment by investing in and expanding digital mental health services. Digitally assisted therapy has already proved successful in other countries and the Government will speed up the delivery of a £67.7 million digital mental health package so that those worried about stress, anxiety or more serious issues can go online, check their symptoms and if needed, receive clinically-assisted therapy over the internet, when this is clinically appropriate for the person rather than waiting weeks for a face-to-face appointment—with face-to-face sessions offered as necessary. We will:

Introduce a major £60 million investment, £30 million from Government and £30 million from trusts, of digitally assisted mental health services in six mental health trusts, badged Global Digital Exemplars for mental health. Global Digital Exemplars will be expected to make a step change in their use of digital technology, informatics and data to improve value overall by improving the processes of care, using information to better inform decision making about care, improving the levels of safety and effectiveness of care, improving the ability to sustain continuous quality improvement and improving patient access to appropriate evidence based care.

Pilot digitally-assisted therapy for the NHS’s talking therapies programme. This £3 million pilot will trial existing treatments and offer patients faster effective therapy for illnesses such as anxiety and depression and involve working with NICE to establish a new accelerated accreditation process, to ensure mental health patients can access treatments that take full advantage of changing technology which have been properly tested and accredited, with products becoming part of the mainstream offer to people if meeting NICE standards.

Strengthen the mental health content of the clinical triage platform for NHS 111 with a £3.3 million investment, ensuring improved waging of those experiencing mental ill-health using the NHS’ online platforms, as well as allow self-referrals online.

Pilot and further roll out the health based place of safety capacity management app at a cost of £900,000 to help police and health services manage places of safety spaces in real time.

Develop a set of apps and resources for £500,000, which will be included on an online digital health tools library, and rolled out on commercial platforms like the Apple App store.

Fifth, we must right the everyday injustices that those with mental health problems face. We will:

Work with money and mental health policy institute to undertake a review of the mental health and debt form and agree an approach that will end this unfair practice.

Support NHS England’s commitment, made this year, to eliminate inappropriate placements to inpatient beds for children and young people by 2020-21.

Publish the refreshed Government Suicide Prevention strategy a copy of which can be viewed at: http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-statement/Commons/2017-01-09/HCWS397.

Suicide Prevention

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 4,820 suicides were registered in England during 2015—equivalent to 13 people per day. Self-harm is also on the rise, with up to 300,000 hospital attendances per year in England categorised as resulting from self-inflicted injury.

We are already taking steps to help reduce suicide. The £247 million investment in mental health liaison services will see trained psychiatrists and counsellors made available in emergency departments to assess, counsel and refer patients on to other mental health services if they present with signs of self-harm or other psychological distress.

Local authorities will also be expected to strengthen local suicide prevention plans, and there is an explicit focus on improving how services respond to cases of self-harm, which is the biggest single indicator that a person may be at increased risk of suicide.

It is hoped that the new strategy, which sets out how local areas should do more to support those at high risk of suicide, will also encourage local authorities strengthen efforts to reach other groups known to be at increased risk.

These include young men—who are three times more likely to die by suicide than women—those in contact with the criminal justice system and certain occupational groups.

Many parts of the country already have established preventative plans. These vary by area, but have included: stronger outreach and liaison services, dedicated services for young people who self-harm and training programmes to help health professionals, police and other community services to understand how to identify and respond to people in acute distress.

All local authorities will now be expected to develop strong, multi-agency suicide prevention plans by the end of 2017, ahead of these being checked and approved by the Department of Health.

In addition, NHS England will develop a new care pathway for self-harm, which will provide greater consistency in how those groups are cared for across the NHS, with consistent treatment guidelines for the recognition, treatment and management of self-harm.

There will also be an increased focus on ensuring those who have been recently bereaved—which are another group at increased risk of suicide—receive information and follow-up support to help them cope with their loss.

[HCWS397]

Transport

Safe Use of Drones: Consultation

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My noble Friend, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon) made the following ministerial statement on Wednesday 21 December 2016.

Today, I am pleased to inform the House that the UK Government have launched a consultation

“Unlocking the UK’s high tech economy: consultation on the safe use of drones in the UK”.

Drone technology represents a great opportunity for the United Kingdom, but it is crucial that we strike a careful balance in our approach to drones—a balance between pushing their commercial uses and ensuring safety considerations.

The Government’s industrial strategy will support our ambition for Britain to become the global go-to place for scientists, innovators and tech investors, and the development of new technologies such as drones is key to that. We are already well-placed: alongside the Government’s support for trials and projects, the Civil Aviation Authority has granted over 2,000 commercial drone operator permissions. But we want to further drive forward progress in the UK drones industry by fostering the right supportive environment.

In the UK, drones are already being used by the police, fire services and search and rescue in emergency situations, by energy, road and rail providers to inspect and maintain our key infrastructure, and by conservation organisations to monitor natural environments. Drones are saving time and money, improving delivery of services in these areas, improving safety and even helping to save lives. As the technology develops, we will see drones being used in other fields to achieve similar results. There are also many leisure users of drones, who must follow the strict laws in place, such as keeping their drone within their sight. With the photographic and videography opportunities drones present, sales of drones to this audience are increasing at pace.

But like many other technologies, drones can also be misused and challenge safety, security and privacy. While the vast majority of drone users are law-abiding and have good intentions, it is likely that some are not aware of the rules that apply and inadvertently break them, risking safety, privacy and security. It also cannot be ignored that there will be some who will purposefully break the laws on drones, and potentially use drones to cause harm.

The Government’s vision is for a society and economy in the UK where drones are safely and properly used in ways that improve the delivery of public and commercial services, where all leisure drone users are aware of the rules and adhere to them, and where flourishing drone service businesses are contributing to the UK economy, creating jobs and encouraging the development of important new skills in the UK. We want to create the right conditions for new uses of drone technology to emerge and grow, placing the UK at the cutting edge of new technologies and capturing a significant portion of the global drone applications market. We will not do so unless we take the safety, security and privacy challenges and our duties to the general public extremely seriously.

This consultation sets out some of the next steps under consideration for doing so. These proposals aim to keep pace with this fast emerging market, balancing the challenges appropriately without restricting the opportunity drones present. They are intended to ensure the global competitiveness of the UK as a home for innovation and technological investment while providing the assurance the public need. As the technology and market opportunities develop, we want to proactively address these challenges, and support the growing and changing UK drones services industry.

The consultation is published on gov.uk and the deadline for responding is 15 March 2017.

Responses are encouraged from drone operators (commercial and leisure), the aviation industry, drone manufacturers and other companies involved in the drone market, model aircraft associations and their members, the insurance industry, members of the public and relevant NGOs, higher education institutions and research and development institutions, local authorities, and Members of both Houses.

[HCWS395]