In March of last year I was appointed by the mayor of Lewisham, as one of the one of the borough’s elected councillors, to be the mental health champion for Lewisham. My role is to promote mental health awareness across all business of the council. I ensured that the first motion on mental health, which I proposed, was fully carried at a meeting of full council in June last year. The importance of this motion was to commit Lewisham council, with its key partners, to providing full support to Lewisham’s residents with mental health needs. It set out that that despite continuing high levels of budget cuts imposed by central government, the local authority has a crucial role to play in improving the mental health of everyone in the community and tackling some of the widest and most entrenched inequalities in health. Finally the motion reaffirmed the good work already established between Lewisham council, the voluntary sector, housing associations, clinical commissioning groups, and South London and Maudsley Trust to fully integrate support for people with mental health needs. An overarching action plan will be created to set out how this will be carried forward.
My role as mental health champion is supported by the Centre for Mental Health, which hosts the mental health challenge. The challenge has been set up by seven mental health charities who are working together to improve mental health across England. It was established to recognise the key role that local authorities have in implementing a mental health strategy and improving mental health in their communities. The challenge supports and encourages local authorities to take a proactive approach to this crucial issue, by signing up to certain commitments such as having a political champion.
At the Labour party conference in September last year, I spoke with the Labour Campaign for Mental Health founder Victoria Desmond, where we both agreed that it was important to get all Labour run local authorities to sign up to the mental health challenge, starting first with the 21 London Labour councils.
On behalf of the Labour Campaign for Mental Health, I organised and chaired a roundtable discussion on how to improve mental health provision in the capital. The meeting heard from the Centre of Mental Health, on the benefits of signing up to the mental health challenge.
It was agreed that all of the Labour mental health champions in London would approach those remaining Labour councils to ensure that all 21 London Labour councils would sign up to the mental health challenge, publicising the benefits through articles and blog posts, as well as working closely with our mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan and London Assembly candidates. The campaign has been called #Target21.
Finally we discussed how we could work closer together and share good practice, when it came to delivering mental health provision in our respective boroughs. This included having good partnership working with our NHS providers, housing associations, and very importantly the local voluntary sector. I mentioned my close working relationship with the Lewisham Mental Health Connection who are a forum of voluntary sector providers and service users. With my support they organised a Lewisham mental health conference last year that allowed 191 service users, to highlight what local mental health services should be commissioned.
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