Labour and Mental Health

Ed Miliband has committed the next Labour Government to a radical improvement in mental health provision with more emphasis on prevention, early intervention and better support – particularly for young people – as part of Labour’s plan to sustain and improve the NHS.

The commitment coincides with the publication of the report of Stephen O’Brien’s independent Mental Health Taskforce, commissioned by Ed Miliband two years ago.

Taking action to improve mental health is essential if we are to thrive as a nation and ensure the NHS remains sustainable. The approaches proposed in the Mental Health Taskforce report – prevention, early intervention and better support – are key to achieving that. It is an excellent roadmap for change as we draw up our programme for action. This government’s failure and false economies on mental health need to be replaced with smart investments that will save money and put our NHS on a sustainable footing so it can meet the challenges of the 21st Century as well as it did the last.


1. Ending the scandal of the neglect of child mental health


Just 6 per cent of the mental health budget is spent on children, even though three quarters of adult mental illness begins before the age of 18. The Government’s false economies in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services in this Parliament have led to a growing number of young people being placed in adult wards, and many sent hundreds of miles for hospital care as a result of bed shortages.

  • We will set an ambition that, over time, the proportion of the mental health budget spent on children will rise as we make smart investments to improve mental health in childhood, in the process lessening some of the demand on mental health services when young people turn into adults.
  • In future all teachers should have training in child mental health so they are equipped to identify, support and refer children with mental health problems. Good child mental health is critical for academic attainment and future employment prospects: children with emotional problems are twice as likely to struggle with reading, spelling and maths.

2. Early intervention

Labour is supporting two long-term objectives that the Taskforce say could play a part in improving health, making savings and ensuring a more sustainable system of healthcare.

  • An expansion of talking therapies, working towards a 28-day waiting-time standard for access to both adult and young people’s talking therapies.
  • Local authorities, the NHS and schools should work together to ensure all children can access school-based counselling or therapy if they need it.