Opinions

Mental health headlines the Scottish Government’s work programme

Written by: Andrew Strong, Assistant Director (Policy and Communications), the ALLIANCE

Andrew casts his eye over the key commitments contained in the Programme for Government.

Delivering for Today, Investing for Tomorrow is a wide-ranging plan, summarising current thinking and new initiatives from across the Scottish Government’s brief.

It will come as no surprise that mental health dominates. The last couple of years have signalled an intent toward change including the publication of a new ten-year Mental Health Strategy (this link will take you away from our website) and this summer’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan  (this link will take you away from our website), which was strongly informed by people who engaged with a partnership of Samaritans Scotland, our Health and Social Care Academy and NHS Health Scotland.

The PfG commits to improving the mental health provision embedded within Scotland’s education system. This is a welcome move, responding not only to SAMH’s recent findings on “insufficient or no” teacher training in mental health first aid (this link will take you away from our website) but also to the establishment of Scotland’s first Youth Commission (this link will take you away from our website) dedicated solely to mental health. The Programme for Government notes that the Scottish Government will invest heavily in counselling services in secondary schools, Further and Higher Education as well as increasing the number of mental health nurses operating in schools.

The Government is also planning a number of service changes over the coming years, with new “flexible visiting” arrangements being in place across NHS Scotland by 2020 that will enable more people in hospital to spend time with those who mean most to them when it suits them. Alongside this, the Minor Ailment Service is to be made available to everyone in Scotland, redesigned to cover more common conditions, a move welcomed by Community Pharmacy Scotland (this link will take you away from our website).

ALLIANCE members have also warmly greeted a planned National Action Plan for Neurological Conditions, with MS Society Scotland, Sue Ryder and Bobath Scotland all hailing the move as raising the voices of people living with neurological conditions up the political agenda.

The initial development of Scotland’s new Social Security Agency is now coming to pass too – with accelerated implementation of the new Best Start Grant for young families, six months ahead of its initial timescale. This is one of three entitlements that will be available over the coming months, alongside the Carers Allowance Supplement and Funeral Expense Assistance. Meanwhile, the Agency has committed to publishing a new Social Security Charter, setting out the rights of people who access their social security entitlements in Scotland.

The Government also announced plans to incorporate the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (this link will take you away from our website) into domestic law over the coming years, which should act as encouragement to those of us who believe that the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (this link will take you away from our website) should also be incorporated.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Food Coalition, of which the ALLIANCE is a member, has expressed disappointment that previous PfG commitments for a Good Food Nation Bill appears to have been replaced with a “Good Food Nation programme” which will consider any legislative steps required. As I previously wrote on these pages, the ALLIANCE supported plans for a Bill that would aim to address the connection between long term conditions and food insecurity.

So a busy year ahead, with twelve new Bills planned to begin their progress through the Scottish Parliament and MSPs ready to hear from us all. The ALLIANCE will be monitoring and commenting on progress on the Policy Into Practice pages of our website. Get in touch if you would like to discuss any of these issues further.

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