One of the subjects I write most about in my weekly columns is mental health. I know that this is a topic that is very important to Wiltshire residents and it is one that is important to me as well. Staggeringly, one in four of us are suffering from a mental health issue at any one time. In recent years we have begun talking more openly about mental health conditions, breaking some of the stigma associated that does not exist with cancer or any other physical disease.
There have been some high-profile people who have spoken out about their own experiences, which has helped combat some of the misunderstanding around mental illness, but there is still much more to do. I was watching very closely last week when the Prime Minister, Theresa May, made an important speech explaining her plans for mental health treatment.
The Prime Minister is absolutely right to focus on improving mental health care. It’s something I’ve campaigned on and so I really welcome this. However, there are two key things that need to be addressed as part of this drive: first, boosting the number of beds closer to home for young people, so that constituents of mine in Wiltshire can be treated closer to friends and family. Second, we must look at prevention as well as cure. We have witnessed an astonishing and troubling surge in mental health problems amongst our young people in recent years. We need to get a handle on why that is, so that we can keep our teenagers happier and healthier.
Another key campaign of mine has been to get fairer funding for Wiltshire schools. The current system is ludicrous and sees some areas receiving thousands of pounds extra per pupil than our schools receive. The recent fairer funding proposals ensure that Wiltshire schools do comparatively better than other areas but I am still not satisfied.
As this is still a consultation, I arranged for a delegation of 12 headteachers from the Chippenham constituency to meet directly with the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb, to make a strong case to the Government about the impact on Wiltshire schools. The Minister was very responsive and engaging – this is very much a consultation period and he took on board all comments aired. I will continue to work hard to ensure every child in my constituency gets the education they deserve and that our teachers and schools are given the adequate support and tools to achieve this. Residents can help us build a case. If you would like to help contribute to the consultation please contact me.
To book an appointment at my surgery email email@example.com or call (01249) 704465.
Also published on the Gazette & Herald website here.