The full interview: Theresa May on mental health, PCSOs, contaminated blood, Colman’s and Britvic, and universal credit
PUBLISHED: 06:00 27 October 2017 | UPDATED: 12:32 27 October 2017
Archant © 2017
As the prime minister Theresa May visited Norfolk to announce new mental health support in the workplace, health correspondent Geraldine Scott, spoke to her about issues affecting the region including mental health provision, police cuts, the contaminated blood scandal, and universal credit.
• At what stage does the government have to step in when things are not going well for a mental health trust such as Norfolk and Suffolk, which has recently gone back into special measures for a second time?
“In terms of the mental health trust, the CQC has a job to inspect these trusts to look at the services and the level of services they are providing.
“They kept monitoring, it came out of special measures, they kept monitoring, and there has not been sufficient improvement so they’ve gone back into special measures, and a package and a number of changes will be brought in because of that.
“NHS Improvement will be playing a key role in working with the trust and improving it and it was good to see patients were very clear and complimentary about the staff including in the children’s unit there, and the level of care they were providing but obviously there were other issues which need to be looked at.
“So I think there is an intensive package going in now and overall if you look across the country there is a good record of actually being able to move trusts out of special measures, so that’s where the focus is going to be.
• Is Norfolk and Suffolk an area the government is looking at?
“When we see a trust in special measures, it is important NHS Improvement and others put the support in, and the reason I’m here today is particularly focussing on the wider issue of mental health because mental health provision is not just about what happens in the NHS, it’s about a whole range of environments, and the more we can do in other environments almost to prevent people getting to crisis point, I think is really important because it’s at crisis point people interact with the NHS.
“So I think it’s better if we as individuals help prevent them getting to crisis point. And what we’re talking about today with the Stevenson/Farmer review is about how the workplace, how an employer, deals with mental health and that’s a very important part of that.
• Is there now a change into how mental health is being approached?
“There’s a lot to do because mental health hasn’t been given the attention it deserves for so long. The reason why we are able to start to see a greater emphasis on it is precisely because so many more people are talking about it.
“So campaigns like the EDP and Evening News’, and the fact the government is now putting a focus on it, clearly it’s one of the things I first raised when I became prime minister. I’m very clear this is something we need to deal with because too many people for too long they’ve felt sidelined, the Stevenson/Farmer review is very clear about the hundreds of thousands of people who lose their jobs because of mental health.
“There’s a cost to businesses and to the economy but it’s not good for those individuals either if they are out of the workplace because they’re not able to get the support they need or don’t feel able to come forward to explain why they’ve got a particular difficulty and lose their jobs as a result. So I think campaigns which raise the awareness are very important.”
• Will there be any extra government money to balance out the lifting of the pay cap on the police? This is one of the reasons given by Norfolk Constabulary in their decision to scrap PCSOs.
“Overall we are protecting police budgets and overall Norfolk has over £3m more in its direct funding this year than it had in 2015/16, and the decision whether or how they then spend their money is an operational decision and has to be taken at a local level.
“We were very clear when we took the decision back when the comprehensive spending review was done to protect police budgets, that was an important thing to do and we are continuing with that.
“The Home Office looked at the pay review body report, the government decided to respond positively to that in terms of the over 1pc that the pay review body had provided. We looked carefully at how that could be provided for and decided that is was possible to do that in existing budgets.”
• What are the latest developments on the contaminated blood scandal inquiry?
“The key movement is we’ve had a consultation and we’ve been working very closely with the victims and survivors and those who have been campaigning on this. And I know again this is something that the paper has campaigned on and I think you’ve had some really difficult cases because I think this is something that should not have happened. People’s lives have been significantly affected by this.
“We had that consultation, it closed earlier this week, so we’ll be responding fully to it in due course but I can say that one of the key things that came out of that from people who were consulted is that they did not want the Department of Health to be the sponsoring department for an inquiry and so it won’t be, we will look for another department to sponsor the inquiry.”
Colman’s and Britvic
• What can the government do to try and keep Colman’s and Britvic in Norwich?
“I recognise the significant history there is for Colman’s in Norwich, but also a length of time for Britvic and Robinsons as well. I also recognise the uncertainty this brings for workers and the anxiety and concern.
“These are just proposals at the moment and these are commercial decisions. But the business secretary has actually met and is talking to the companies about this. These are commercial decisions but government has a role to play in encouraging companies to look at how they are doing things, making sure if they do take the decisions support is there for people.
“But I would encourage the companies to look at what can be done to help protect these jobs.”
• When he was in Great Yarmouth last week, Jeremy Corbyn called for a pause to the rollout of universal credit, will that happen?
“Look at how the rollout is being done, at the moment of those claiming benefits 8pc are on universal credit, by January it will be 10pc. There are different phases to the rollout and the intention is to complete it by 2022.
“So this is a rollout that is being done carefully. There have been areas which were introduced first, we’ve been learning and adjusting the implementation as people have raised issues and performance has improved.
“At the beginning of the year it was around 50pc of people weren’t getting their correct payments on time first time round, now it’s over 80pc of people are getting those correct payments first time around. So the performance of the Department of Work and Pensions is improving but of course we are looking at the implementation to see what and how we can make sure it is operating in the best way possible.
“I believe it is important we’ve introduced universal credit because universal credit is about getting people into the workplace and making sure work pays. And that’s crucial so that the more people earn, the more they are able to keep.
“What we have done is already made some changes in ensuring there is more information for people on the availability of advance payments, and you can get an advance payment within five days and if you are in real difficulty and in real need you can get an advanced payment on the day. The number of people taking up those advanced payments has improved.
“We don’t want to see people trapped in a life of benefits. If they’ve got concerns one of the things we announced last week is we’re moving the helpline onto a freephone number. I don’t want anyone to be put off asking if they’ve got any questions or concerns about this. I would encourage people to get in touch and to find out about it and raise any concerns they have.”