Lib Dems introduce new mental health waiting time standards

On World Mental Health Day, Lynne Featherstone MP has welcomed Nick Clegg’s ground-breaking announcement on mental health treatment in the UK.

At the Liberal Democrat conference on Wednesday, the Deputy Prime Minister confirmed that treatment for mental health conditions will finally be brought into line with other NHS services, with the introduction of the first ever waiting time standards.

For the first time, from April 2015, most patients needing talking therapies – for conditions like depression – will be guaranteed the treatment they need in as little as six weeks, with a maximum wait of 18 weeks.

For many patients experiencing their first episode of psychosis, the NHS will start to provide treatment within two weeks of referral – bringing it into line with consultations for cancer.

Evidence shows that treating psychosis rapidly can dramatically improve patients’ chances of recovery and potentially save £44 million each year in hospital admissions.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“Finally, thanks to the Liberal Democrats in Government, people with a mental health condition will receive the same standards of care as they would for a physical health problem.

“And it’s about time – given that at least one in four people will experience a mental health problem throughout the course of our lives.

“Mental Health treatment is rightly making its way up the agenda. I am so happy to also hear that one of our great local mental health charities, Open Door, has just been awarded two major new grants to support its work.

“We really are getting closer to equality between mental and physical health treatment!”

Lynne Featherstone MP named most influential Lib Dem woman

TimesLynne Featherstone MP has climbed nine places in the Times’ ‘red box power list’ this year. The MP for Hornsey and Wood Green is listed as the seventh most influential Lib Dem – and is the highest ranked woman in the list.

The Times explained the decision by saying: ‘The equal marriage legislation was her baby and she pushed the scandal of Female Genital Mutilation to the top of the agenda. If she keeps her seat she will be a major player.’

The Liberal Democrat MP is currently a minister in the Department for International Development – where she leads the campaign to tackle FGM, and to promote disability rights in the developing world.

In her previous role at the Home Office, Lynne Featherstone was the architect of Equal Marriage, and a strong advocate of LGBT+ rights.

Lynne Featherstone MP commented:

“By being part of the Government, I have been able to push campaigns on Equal Marriage, on tackling FGM and many more – like promoting disability rights and tackling all forms of violence against women and girls abroad.

“These are all issues which have been on the back burner for far too long – and I’m so glad that we have seen change. But there is still a long way to go.

“With the strong support from the Lib Dem party, hardworking civil servants, the media and most importantly from the people in my constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green, I hope to continue working on these issues and others for many years to come.”

Nick Clegg is 100% right about devolution!

Nick’s written an article on devolution which is 100% right. I couldn’t have put it better myself – which is why I am pasting it below. He says it all!

Within hours of the momentous decision by the Scottish people to remain in the UK, Westminster found itself once again bogged down in conventional party political point scoring.

I have seen for myself the way in which the vested interests in the two old parties can conspire to block reform – scuppering elections to the House of Lords and a clean up of party funding in recent years.

We cannot allow an exciting new chapter of empowerment and constitutional renewal to be held hostage yet again by a Labour and Tory pre-election stand off.

The Conservatives, in their rush to protect themselves from an attack from the right, are only concerned about English votes on English matters. Of course we need a solution to this dilemma but, by appearing to link it to the delivery of further devolution to Scotland, they risk reneging on the commitment made to the Scottish people that, in the event of a No vote, new powers would come what may.

Worse still, if the Conservatives enter into a Dutch auction with UKIP over ever more extreme solutions to the issue of English votes they could jeopardise the Union they purport to defend. Surely we haven’t fought to save our Union in a vote north of the border, only to see it balkanised in Westminster?

Labour, by contrast, appears to have been taken by surprise by the unavoidable consequences of devolving sweeping new powers to Holyrood. They are choosing to ignore the dilemma of non-English MPs taking decisions on purely English issues – as a party with dozens of Scottish MPs they have the most to lose.

So, unless they’re careful, the Conservatives may end up turning their back on Scotland, while Labour ignores England: a recipe for stalemate when we should we working across political divides to renew our creaking constitution from top to toe.

We need action on three fronts.

First, delivering the devolution that has been promised to Scotland. No ifs, no buts. The package of reforms myself, Ed Miliband and David Cameron all committed to must be delivered on time and cannot be made contingent on other constitutional reforms, even as we pursue agreement on them in parallel.

We must deliver further powers for Wales as recommended by the Silk Commission while strengthening devolution in Northern Ireland too. And, on the divisive issue of English votes for English matters, we must start with the work of Sir William McKay, who has already done a lot of the heavy lifting after the Coalition asked him to look at this. Sir McKay suggested a number of ways of giving English MPs a special right to vet legislation where it only affects England, bringing in Welsh MPs where appropriate, in a way which avoids fragmenting the Commons.

Second, we need a much more radical dispersal of power within England.

In Coalition I have been determined that – against all of the instincts of central government – we hand back an array of powers to Britain’s communities and cities. But we need to turn this relationship fundamentally on its head. Currently the best local councils can hope for is to be granted new powers when the government of the day deigns to do so. Instead we must guarantee a new, legal right for local authorities to demand powers – decentralisation on demand if you like – with central government having to meet a much higher threshold before it can refuse.

My aim is a statutory presumption in favour of the decentralisation of powers away from Whitehall. I see no reason why we cannot publish draft clauses for this early next year alongside our other pressing reforms.

Finally, as we move towards a more federal system we will need to codify the division of labour between Westminster and the constituent parts of the UK and set out a clear statement of the values we all share. In short, what amounts to a written constitution.

I welcome Labour’s decision to embrace the longstanding Liberal Democrat call for a constitutional convention – but it needs a precise mandate, beginning next year and concluding in 2017. It should have a Citizen’s Jury at its heart, representing every corner of the UK. One area it will need to address is the future of the House of Lords which, in my view, would better serve people as an elected second chamber, in keeping with federal political systems across the world. Ultimately, however, it will not be up to politicians – this process will be led by the people.

Together these changes will rewire power across the UK. This opportunity cannot be hijacked by old fashioned ya boo politics. It would be a tragic irony if the stale and self-serving politics of Westminster that has fed the appetite for change now frustrates the possibility of radical reform. The Scottish referendum may have come and gone, but it’s legacy of UK-wide constitutional renewal still remains within our grasp.

The sincerest form of flattery…

The Labour leader recently made a speech supposedly announcing his party’s plans for a localism agenda. The speech was interesting because every suggestion made by Mr Milliband is already being put in place by the Lib Dems in Government!

The 11th hour conversion to Lib Dem policy is an unexpected move by Ed Milliband, but it is good to hear he has seen sense.

Here is a breakdown of just a few of Labour’s “new” policies, compared to those the Lib Dems have already implemented:


Labour Opposition: Increase the number of apprenticeships (despite describing half a million apprentices as ‘deadweight’)

Lib Dems in Government: Led by Vince Cable and Gordon Birtwistle, the Coalition has created 1.8 million apprenticeships since 2010.


Labour Opposition: Move towards keeping rates locally.

Lib Dems in Government:  We’ve reformed rates to ensure that Local Authorities keep a proportion for the first time in 20 years – meaning they have direct control of 80% of their budgets rather than 50%.


Labour Opposition: 25% of government procurement contracts to go SMEs

Lib Dems in Government: This is already government policy, up from the 6.5% under Gordon Brown.


Labour Opposition: Create new University Technical Colleges (UTCs).

Lib Dems in Government: Since 2010, 45 new UTCs have opened, allowing 27,500 students to train as engineers and scientists.


Labour Opposition:  Expand Catapult Centres for manufacturing and cell therapy

Lib Dems in Government: Catapult Centres, brought in by Vince Cable, give scientists, engineers, and businesses a place to work together on late stage research. These are extremely successful and will be expanded with two new centres and £7 million further funding.

So, yet again, Labour are adopting ideas from the Lib Dems just like they have with tax cuts for low earners, voting reform, and decarbonisation.

They’ve even admitted they would have made the same spending cuts if they were in Government after the last General Election!

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery….

An extra £2,000 for working families

Since entering Government, my Lib Dem colleagues and I have worked hard to make the childcare system fairer for working families.

Couples and single parents should not be forced to give up work to look after children because of the costs of childcare – and more generally people shouldn’t have to choose outright between a career and a child.

That’s why we recently announced that working families will get up to £2,000 a year tax free childcare, from Autumn 2015.

Parents will be given vouchers for any Ofsted regulated childcare in England. In Haringey alone it is estimated that 8,340 families will benefit from the new scheme.

This is another boost for children and their parents, to work alongside the other changes guaranteed by the Lib Dems.

These include supplying 15 hours a week free childcare for 2, 3, and 4 year olds, introducing free school meals for infant school pupils, and the Pupil Premium – providing schools with £2.5 billion extra a year.

In tough times we need to ensure that families are given the support they need to help children thrive. The schemes brought in since 2010 have been put in place to provide a more equal playing field for all children and their families.

At school, teachers are getting extra funding to help the most vulnerable, and the administrators can now provide nutritious meals. At home, with the cost of childcare reduced, parents can feel secure in the knowledge that they will be better off in work and their children will be provided for.

These changes are making the country fairer, and they would not have happened if the Lib Dems hadn’t entered Coalition in 2010.     

Still liberal – still radical – still the good guys

It was good to hear Nick begin to set out our real narrative – not the one written for us by other parties.

He said in a speech on Monday: “We may be the smaller party, but we have all the biggest ideas,” crediting the team who have brought so many good things into the coal – including:

  • Ground-breaking pensions reform – Steve Webb.
  • Dragging maternity and paternity leave into the 21st Century – Jo Swinson and Jenny Willott.
  • Getting our schools motivated to stop the poorest children from falling behind – David Laws.
  • Putting infrastructure front and centre of the Coalition’s economic strategy – Danny Alexander.
  • Equal Marriage – Lynne Featherstone.
  • The world’s first ever bank devoted to green investment – Vince Cable.
  • The biggest ever investment in renewable energy – Ed Davey.
  • An £800 tax cut for millions of ordinary people – every Liberal Democrat who ever campaigned for it.

And there is much more obviously. For example – one thing I will be forever proud of in my national work is my campaign on FGM. Of course it is now talked about on a daily basis (and on this I also have to thank the media particularly the Evening Standard) but hardly known about a year and a half ago when I came to the Department of International Development and said ‘we are going to campaign on FGM’. Working with all those campaigners who had campaigned tirelessly for years with no take up – now I would work with them to make sure that ending the cutting off of girls’ genitals was at the top of the political agenda. And now it is.

Even the Prime Minister has now recognised how important this is and chosen this as the subject of our Development World moment in July on FGM and Child Early and Forced Marriage which he will be hosting.

The economy was the reason we went into Coalition – and that is looking really good as are the employment figures. And make no mistake – without LibDems – that would not have happened. But the list above just shows how effective we have been at delivering our fair, green and liberal agenda – even in a Coalition.

Nick must stay!

The inevitable letter to the papers calling for Nick to go was bound to happen. It always does when things get tough – and they don’t get tougher than the elections we have just been through.

But that is why Nick must stay. He is brave and capable – and taking us into government has achieved remarkable progress. I won’t rehearse all our achievements here – but even if you just take turning round the economy – which would not have happened without the Liberal Democrats – for that alone he should be applauded. Putting the country’s interests before party interests is the right thing to do.

Nick has taken so much flak from the moment he became Deputy Prime Minister – and borne it bravely. He is always focused and has a phenomenal strategic understanding. And right now when people are saying that he shouldn’t have given Farage exposure in the debate – I say well done Nick. Standing up for what you believe in is something the cowardly leader of the Labour party is incapable of and something we need politicians from all parties to do more of. Staying silent simply lets evil prosper.

Thank goodness there are still more progressive MEPs elected in Europe from other countries to hopefully hold it safe. I find UKIP and the rise of the right a terrifying prospect. Sending a message to government is one thing – but sending MEPs to Europe who want its destruction is quite another.

However – the country has spoken and we will see what happens next.


Housing matters!

Labour-run Haringey Council has not built any council housing for 25 years. Unforgivable!

So much of my casework is to do with housing. There isn’t nearly enough and people stay on Haringey’s housing list for years – living in overcrowded and sometimes absolutely terrible conditions.

It is not unusual for people to come to me in desperation over their living conditions to ask me to help get them moved. So often it is the parents worried about the children having to sleep several to a room and no place for a child to do homework or study – and years are spent in temporary accommodation just waiting and waiting for a home.

My Liberal Democrat council colleagues have committed in their manifesto to build the first new council homes in Haringey for 25 years. When Labour Haringey published its manifesto for these local elections (after the Liberal Democrat manifesto had been published of course) lo and behold – suddenly – Labour are promising to build houses.

Given they have been in power in Haringey for decades and haven’t built any council housing – not sure local people will believe this leopard is changing its spots!

There’s only one way to be sure – back the local Liberal Democrat team on Thursday with our consistent record of campaigning to tackle Haringey’s housing shortage.