Senedd focus on mental health

Published 23/05/2023   |   Reading Time minutes

Mental health has been the subject of significant scrutiny in the Senedd over recent years.

In the Fifth Senedd for example, the then Children, Young People and Education Committee published its influential ‘Mind over Matter‘ report (2018) and continued to follow up on this work. The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee also produced a number of reports, including on: suicide prevention (2019); mental health in policing and police custody (2020); and the mental health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (2020). The Welsh Government has provided some progress updates to the current Health Committee.

Mental health remains a strategic priority for both the Children’s and the Health Committee in the Sixth Senedd. It’s also a cross-cutting theme discussed in wider committee work, for example the Equality and Social Justice Committee’s inquiries on women’s experiences in the criminal justice system, and debt and the impact of the rising cost of living.

In this article, we provide a round-up of some of the key pieces of work that have been undertaken during this Senedd:

Health and Social Care Committee

The Health and Social Care Committee’s ‘Waiting well?’ report (April 2022) looked at the impact of the waiting times backlog on people in Wales. It discussed the delays in treatment for mental health conditions, plus the link between long-term physical health conditions and poor mental health (and the mental health impact of lengthy waits for treatment).

The Committee’s December 2022 report on mental health inequalities called for more accessible, joined-up services and a shift towards a much greater focus on tackling inequalities and the wider causes of mental ill health (you can read more about this inquiry in our recent article Changing the conversation about mental health).

During the mental health inequalities inquiry, stakeholders highlighted the stigma, inequalities, and poorer health outcomes experienced by people with severe and enduring mental illness. The Committee is currently consulting on support for people with chronic conditions, including the interaction between mental and physical health conditions. In a two-stage approach to the inquiry, the consultation responses will be used to shape the inquiry’s areas of focus. The consultation closes on 25 May 2023, with oral evidence sessions expected to take place in the autumn term.

Children, Young People and Education Committee

The Children, Young People and Education Committee’s 2022 inquiry on pupil absence looked at mental health issues as both a cause and consequence of pupil absence from school.

The Committee’s mental health support in higher education inquiry (2022-2023) looked at the effectiveness of support for students’ mental health and wellbeing. It made over 30 recommendations covering a wide range of issues such as the impact of the pandemic, mitigating the impact of the cost of living crisis, improved data collection, training and awareness raising for staff and students, and more sustainable funding which matches the level of need. The Welsh Government’s response to the report is expected to be published imminently.

In November 2022, the Committee received a briefing from young people involved in Mind Cymru’s ‘Sort the Switch’ campaign, calling for improvements to transitions between child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and adult services. The Committee subsequently held a scrutiny session with the Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing. In its mental health support in higher education report, the Committee called for the Welsh Government to commit to implementation of all recommendations in the Sort the Switch report.

Welsh Youth Parliament

The Welsh Youth Parliament has prioritised three issues, including ‘our mental health and wellbeing’. It published its Young minds matter report in November 2022. This highlighted the need for improved awareness and understanding, more support in places of learning and community settings, plus an overhaul of CAMHS provision.

This work followed on from the first Welsh Youth Parliament’s report Let’s talk about mental health (October 2020).

Welsh Government

Mental health is also a priority for the Welsh Government. Its Programme for Government includes commitments to:

  • prioritise investment in mental health;
  • prioritise service redesign to improve prevention, tackle stigma, and promote a ‘no wrong door’ approach to mental health support;
  • roll out CAMHS ‘in reach’ support in schools across Wales.

The Welsh Government has indicated that the successor to its existing ‘Together for mental health’ strategy will be published for consultation by the end of 2023.

UK Government and Mental Health Act reform

Following an independent review of the 1983 Mental Health Act in 2018, the UK Government published a White Paper in 2021, and a draft Mental Health Bill in June 2022. The proposed reforms aim to:

  • ensure greater choice and autonomy for patients in a mental health crisis;
  • tackle the racial disparities in mental health services;
  • better meet the needs of people with a learning disability and autistic people, and;
  • ensure appropriate care for people with serious mental illness within the criminal justice system.

The draft Bill has been scrutinised by a joint committee in the UK Parliament. In its response to the Health and Social Care Committee’s mental health inequalities report, the Welsh Government indicated that it is likely that a legislative consent motion will need to be passed in the Senedd once the Mental Health Bill is introduced.

Further reading from Senedd Research

We’ve also published some other supporting information and articles on mental health, including:

Article by Philippa Watkins, Senedd Research, Welsh Parliament