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Mental health becomes Street’s seventh policy pledge

Mental health becomes Street’s seventh policy pledge

🕔31.Jan 2017

Businesses in the West Midlands who demonstrate a commitment to the mental health wellbeing of their staff could be rewarded with tax incentives, under a pilot to be announced today. Conservative Mayoral hopeful Andy Street is the first candidate to throw his support behind the initiative. 

The pilot is part of the commitment to put mental health “at the forefront” of his Mayorship and make the West Midlands the “UK leader in tackling this issue”, according to Mr Street.

Research shows that poor mental health costs the West Midlands £12.5bn each year – the equivalent of £3,100 per person.

The publication of the Mental Health Commission report by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) today will outline several recommendations to improve services across the workplace, communities and in healthcare.

Norman Lamb MP will launch the Commission’s report at Edgbaston Cricket Ground today. WMCA has identified mental health as a priority area where it can deliver significant public sector reform. Mr Lamb chairs the commission’s panel, created to advise the WMCA and government on how to make a real difference in this area. It is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK.

The panel’s focus has been on putting forward concrete plans which will transform public services to lessen the impact of poor mental health, redirecting current resources in the context of the combined authority’s devolution deal. Challenging employers to support the wellbeing of their staff and assisting them in that is also a key strand of the work.

If elected Mayor, Mr Street has committed to personally chairing the West Midlands Wellbeing Board to take forward the recommendations of the Commission. He has also made the trailing of the ‘Wellbeing Premium’ in the West Midlands a key policy pledge.

The pledge on mental health is highlighted by the Street campaign as their seventh policy update, each containing a series of commitments. Others include youth unemployment, homelessness and rough sleeping and manufacturing.

The policy announcement comes a day after the launch of the Cities Outlook report at which Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees and WMCA Chief Executive Martin Reeves made impassioned pleas about the need to connect social and economic policy at the level of places against the backdrop of reducing public funds and Brexit.

Mr Street said:

The economic cost of mental health to the region is staggering. There are 70,000 economically inactive people at any one time due to mental health problems and 4.1 million working days are lost each year.

This is equivalent to all those on job seekers allowance and whilst progress on unemployment has been dramatic, the mental health issues have remained stubbornly unresolved.

While employers have realised the importance of physical health, we need them to value mental health just as much.

This is something the West Midlands Combined Authority has recognised in forming the Commission under the leadership of Norman Lamb MP – who has done so much excellent campaigning on mental health issues in Parliament. The report published today is a fantastic step forward.

As Mayor I want to make the recommendations a reality by bringing in the funding to make the West Midlands the leader in understanding the links between mental health and the economy.

I will personally commit to securing Government approval for a ‘Wellbeing Premium’ pilot which would give tax incentives to businesses that go the extra mile. This will be in their interests because it will reduce staff sickness absence and improve productivity.

New York has a successful city-wide strategy for mental health – it’s exactly what the West Midlands Mayoralty should also aspire to.

The pledge from the Tory candidate comes just hours after he held an ‘Ask Andy’ public event in Olton, the first of a series of public all comers events revealed by Chamberlain Files. The Conservative campaign shows no sign of loss of momentum with the energetic Mr Street appearing at a number of events across the region and backed by enthusiastic campaigning and canvassing efforts.

The other main mayoral candidates are James Burn (Green) Pete Durnell (UKIP), Beverley Nielsen (LibDem) and Siôn Simon (Lab).

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