Public Affairs Update
Information from our Public Affairs team.
05 June 2023
Public Affairs Update - June 2023
Society Activity in Wales
In May we responded to the Senedd’s inquiry into the support services for people with chronic conditions. We noted that the high prevalence of chronic conditions in Wales poses serious challenges to many individuals and their families as well as the services supporting them. Psychologists often work with people with chronic conditions and are key to supporting them to live well through these challenges. They are key in supporting and training other health professionals to use psychological tools to ensure that people adapt well and avoid developing further illnesses.
Manel now sits on the Royal Colleges Mental Health Expert Advisory Group (RCMHEAG) and can support the DCP Wales Co-chair, who was a founding member of the group. The Group held their quarterly meeting with the Deputy Minister for Mental Health to discuss the high-level statements and principles of the next mental health strategy for Wales.
Manel presented her vision for the public affairs work in Wales at the Creating meaningful change in services and service systems event on 10 May organised by the Division of Forensic Psychology Wales. Naomi Stock, Clerk to the Senedd’s Children and Young People committee also presented on the importance of their role in scrutinising Welsh Government and how the BPS can get involved in Senedd activity. The Gwent Attachment Team spoke about their project and its successes in supporting schools and pupils and their families. The Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner presented on the role of psychologists in delivering the Women’s Blueprint.
We are holding our first Policy Group quarterly meeting online on 20 June, 3-5pm. This is a chance for Members to come together to discuss the policy priorities of the Welsh Branch, how we can better influence policy and decision making in Wales, and consider what pieces of work we should carry out. Please contact [email protected] if you’re interested in joining.
News from the Senedd
Debate on Connecting the Dots – mental health inequalities report
On 3 May there was a debate in Plenary on the Health and Social Care Committee report - Connecting the dots: tackling mental health inequalities in Wales. The Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing defended the Welsh Government response to the report although she had been criticised for only accepting 17 of the 27 recommendations. In short, MS’s were concerned that the government’s response didn’t cover the wider aspects of mental health (cross governmental), they didn’t accept a recommendation around a directory of community and digital services, and that there was no agreement to providing annual updates on the report’s recommendations. Many were disappointed that the Minister didn’t use this opportunity to highlight any bold ambitions for improving mental health services.
Evidence session on disabled and neuro-divergent children’s access to education
On 18 May, the Children, Young People and Education Committee held their first evidence session after announcing their inquiry into accessing education for disabled and neurodivergent children. The Children’s Commissioner and the Head of EHCR in Wales raised concern about patchy provision of support, the low numbers in mainstream education, and the bullying experienced by many. (See Consultations section below for more information on the inquiry.)
Evidence session on public health approach to preventing gender-based violence
On 22 May, the Equality and Social Justice Committee invited evidence from stakeholders including Psychologists for Social Change, who highlighted the need for the approach to take a relational view and how communities and the wider society – not just the individual - must be supported in tackling violence.
Debate on the experiences of women in the criminal justice system
On 23 May, the Equality and Social Justice Committee report - Unsustainable: debt fuelled by the rising cost of living – was published on 24 May, It raises concerns that the most vulnerable people in Wales face serious hardship as short-term cost-of-living support comes to an end. The Committee made 14 recommendations to the Welsh Government, including monitoring food prices, investing in food security, provide healthy meals and teach people cooking skills in the community.
On 24 May, MPs debated the findings of a recent inquiry by the Equality and Social Justice Committee’s report which highlighted the injustices around how and why women who commit crimes are punished and treated within the system. There was discussion around custodial sentences in England, the plans to build a Women’s Residential Centre in Swansea, and there was a call from across the parties for criminal justice to be devolved to Wales. The women offenders’ blueprint was heralded but concern raised about the lack of knowledge around this ground-breaking plan.
News from Westminster
Online Safety Bill
BPS colleagues have formed a coalition with the Mental Health Foundation, Mind, YoungMinds, Beat, and more, aiming to make sure protections for vulnerable children and adults are adequately enshrined within the scope of the Bill. The coalition worked with Baroness Morgan to table two amendments which would have ensured users of services are opted-out of harmful content by default. Although the amendments were not progressed due to a lack of UK Government support, peers across the benches spoke passionately about the difference such a step would make, and the debate saw BPS get two mentions in the House of Lords. Colleagues continue to work with partners and peers on strengthening protections when the Bill returns to the House of Lords for report stage this summer.
Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPP) prisoners
Ahead of a Westminster Hall debate, BPS public affairs colleagues provided MPs on the Justice Select Committee with an in-depth briefing on the psychological impacts of IPP sentences on those serving them, reiterating our call on the UK Government to adopt the Committee's recommendation of a resentencing exercise. Colleagues are continuing to support MPs in pushing for a resentencing exercise, particularly as the Victims and Prisoners Bill returns to progress through the House. After a positive informal chat with Shadow Prisons Minister Ellie Reeves, they will continue to push for a cross-party solution on IPP sentences.
Acquired Brain Injury Strategy
BPS public affairs colleagues and two members of the Division of Neuropsychology attended a reception at Westminster, hosted by Sir Chris Bryant, MP for Rhondda. There was a lot of talk about the development of the strategy, the importance of neuropsychologists in supporting survivors of ABI, and on ensuring equality of outcomes for ABI survivors across the UK.
Open Consultations – have your say
The Welsh Government are seeking views on the Single Unified Safeguarding Review (SUSR) statutory guidance. They are asking if the guidance will prevent re-traumatisation of victims and their families, streamline the review process to make it less complicated, ensure learning from safeguarding reviews is shared across the whole of Wales and ensure the impacted family is at the heart of the review process. Deadline: Tuesday, 6 June.
The Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee are asking for views on whether disabled and neurodivergent children and young people have equal access to education and childcare. They are looking at barriers to education, adequacy of choice and information, and experiences of discrimination. Deadline: Friday, 29 September.
Members’ views are welcomed and will help inform our response. Please email [email protected].