‘Politically speaking’ by Paula Sherriff, MP for Dewsbury and Mirfield

Very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to all The Press readers!

It’s been lovely to join the Christmas celebrations around the constituency over the last couple of weeks, from Santa’s special canal trips with the Safe Anchor Trust in Mirfield, to the Dewsbury Young Diabetics’ Christmas Party, to popping into the Royal Mail sorting office in Dewsbury to thank them for all their hard work throughout the year, as well as in the busy festive season.

As we all relax into the family traditions of Christmas, a time for getting together, enjoying each other’s company, exchanging presents and having a good time, we all know that unfortunately this can also be the most stressful time of year for people – for all manner of reasons.

Christmas is often a time when money is tight. There are presents to buy for the kids and meals to plan for family and friends.

It’s not surprising that it’s a challenging time for our stress levels, particularly for those with mental ill health.

In addition to these familiar seasonal pressures, we are seeing a rise in the number of people suffering from mental health issues.

So mental health provision is more important than ever.

Sadly, I’ve heard from several patients and families who tell me of the problems they’re facing.

Only this weekend I met a local mum whose teenage daughter is in a mental health unit in Colchester – the closest available inpatient bed.

It is disgraceful that vital services are stretched so thin and it is imperative that this issue is addressed urgently.

Unfortunately, mental health is yet to be given parity of esteem with other NHS services.

This is of grave concern to me and is an issue that I have raised repeatedly during my time as an MP.

Mental health services are definitely the poor relation of the NHS and the government must do more to address this.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve met with health professionals from around the country to discuss mental health services.

They spoke about the problems they are facing, including concerns that funding intended for frontline mental health services, specifically for children and young people, is being diverted elsewhere by cash-strapped clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).

Worryingly, information gathered by the Royal College of Psychiatrists shows that spending per child across Kirklees is in the bottom 20 per cent in the country.

I’ve written to our local CCGs with regard to this unacceptable underfunding of child and adolescent mental health services in our area.

I’ll be visiting some services that exemplify good practice in mental health provision in the coming weeks, but mental health spending should absolutely not be a postcode lottery. We need to ensure that the mental health of young people in our area is given the priority it deserves.

We desperately need to see some action from the Government to support those who are struggling. As we head into the New Year, I’ll continue to hammer home the reality to the Government. I do hope they will listen.


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