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Government must make time for issues like domestic abuse and mental health

PUBLISHED: 17:59 20 September 2019 | UPDATED: 17:59 20 September 2019

MP Norman Lamb has said he wants to stand down to focus on mental health campaigning outside parliament

MP Norman Lamb has said he wants to stand down to focus on mental health campaigning outside parliament

PA Archive/PA Images

Leeway's chief executive, Mandy Proctor responds and reflects on Norman Lamb's view that some issues aren't getting the time they need/deserve in parliament

I recently read about North Norfolk MP, Sir Norman Lamb's decision to not stand in another election, citing the fact that he felt he could achieve more outside of parliament.

Sir Norman has been an MP who has been recognised for working hard for his constituents in North Norfolk, as well as being a vocal campaigner on issues such as mental health.

The reason given behind his decision to not stand is that he feels that issues, such as mental health, are not getting the time they deserve in parliament and it seems he is not the only politician who feels this way.

This sentiment has been echoed by other MPs, including Labour's Jess Phillips, who wrote a letter to the prime minister highlighting the urgent need for progress regarding the Domestic Abuse Bill.

Mental health and domestic abuse are closely linked and are just two of the pressing issues that affect many people and urgently needs to be addressed.

According to mental health charity Mind, one in four people in the UK will experience mental health problems each year - a startlingly high figure.

Government statistics show there were also over two million adults aged between 16 and 59 that experienced domestic abuse in the last year, that's without considering those over 60 or the many children living with domestic abuse.

These statistics highlight just how important these issues are and it's understandable why some MPs feel frustrated by the seeming lack of progress to change things for the better.

As chief executive of Leeway, a local domestic abuse charity, I have seen first-hand the demand for services and how this has risen over the past few years.

We have also seen an increasing number of people coming forward for support that have additional needs, such as mental health or drug and alcohol dependency.

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Whilst the demand for services continues to rise, both regionally and nationally, there is still a shortage of provisions that can cope with the numbers of people needing to access support.

A previous government announcement, earlier this year, stated that they hoped to end the 'postcode lottery' of services around the country, ensuring that everyone had access to support regardless of where they live.

While we are quite lucky in our area, retaining some services and receiving some support from partner agencies, there are many counties that are struggling, particularly those forced to drastically cut funding.

The longer the wait goes on for any progress on the Domestic Abuse Bill, the longer victims are waiting for proposals that could offer greater protection, as well as enhanced service provisions that are desperately needed.

The same rings true for a lot of people waiting for mental health services, with many experiencing long delays when trying to access support and patchy service provision across the country.

A lot of domestic abuse and mental health services, nationally, are already finding it increasingly difficult to continue to operate, as funding cuts and uncertainty limit the work they can do.

If there is not a resolution or progress soon, more services may be forced to close, putting additional strain on those that 
are already working hard to meet high demands.

My major concern is that, if the services aren't available or are over-subscribed, many people will not be able to access support and may be at further risk.

For people experiencing domestic abuse, this could mean serious harm or homicide both for themselves and their children - that is how dangerous the potential repercussions are.

The Domestic Abuse Bill has great potential to make a big difference, but it will only deliver on that promise when it is implemented, which sadly looks a little way off.

It is a concern that it could get lost in the busy political schedule and be forgotten about, which would be a huge blow for victims as well as the many organisations that have campaigned to achieve this progress.

While Sir Norman Lamb won't be standing in another election, it is vital that other MPs and specialist organisations both locally and nationally continue to campaign to ensure that issues such as mental health and domestic abuse are addressed.

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