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Supporting People with Mental Health Problems

Volume 640: debated on Tuesday 8 May 2018

2. What role his Department has in supporting people with mental health problems to access help in relation to housing, debt and employment. [R] (905159)

The Department is working with the NHS and across the Government to increase the support available for people with mental illness and on related issues. This includes investing £39 million to double the number of employment advisers in IAPT—increasing access to psychological therapy—as well as reviewing the practice of GPs charging for evidence of patients in debt crisis and the introduction of a duty under the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 for the NHS to refer people at risk of homelessness to the local authority.

A quarter of people experiencing mental health problems are also in problem debt, and eight out of 10 mental health practitioners surveyed have said that they have less time to deliver clinical care because they are being asked to assist with the task of writing up debt management plans. Does the Minister agree that to ensure the best chance of recovery, commissioning groups require to integrate advice alongside mental health care, particularly for those in problem debt?

The hon. Lady makes a sensible point. Of course it is true that people’s personal circumstances are a symptom and a cause of mental ill health. We are doing more to enable those delivering mental health services to signpost people with problem debt to appropriate services. Clearly, that becomes easier where those services are co-located with citizens advice bureaux. In addition, the Breathing Space programme aims to provide a break for people with debt. I recognise, however, that this is a serious problem and that debt problems will cause mental illness.

Will the Minister explain to the House how the Thriving at Work programme will play a role in improving public mental health as well as benefiting our working lives?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. It is very much this Government’s view that work is good for people’s health, and the more we can encourage people to live independently and feel in control of their lives, the better their health outcomes will be. We absolutely stand by the Thriving at Work programme.

Is the Minister aware of the growing incidence of mental illness associated with gambling addiction and of the rapid rise in suicides as a consequence? Will she try to ensure that there is adequate psychiatric capacity within the NHS, and will she liaise with her colleagues in the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport on preventive action?

The right hon. Gentleman rightly identifies problem gambling as another important contributory factor to mental ill health. When it gets out of hand, it can lead to considerable stress. We will of course work with the Department for Digital, Culture Media and Sport to ensure that we have the right regulatory processes in place, as well as ensuring that we are giving support to those who need it.

Does the Minister agree that, when children and young people have mental health challenges, it is important wherever possible to engage with their families to help them to overcome them?

What my hon. Friend says is self-evidently true. We are putting in more help in schools through the Green Paper, but we also need to ensure that we are engaged with families much earlier than that. We have the health visitor programme, and those visits help to build relationships with parents. We have also taken action on specific issues, including the initiative relating to the children of alcoholics. We will continue to focus support where it is needed.

Order. It is very good to welcome back to the Chamber the right hon. Member for Leicester East (Keith Vaz).