Labour conference told mental health will be defining issue

Oona King MP told delegates at the Labour party conference that
mental health problems “will be the defining issue of the 21st
century”, writes Sally Gillen.

King told a fringe meeting hosted by charities Shelter and
Barnardo’s on young people and homelessness: “The stresses of
modern life are pushing people to the edge and I hear that very

King, who is MP for Tower Hamlets, the country’s most
deprived borough, added that most of the members of her
constituency who visited her suffered from depression.

She believed it was crucial that mental health strategies should
be linked to housing. Earlier, delegates heard from two young
people who had suffered mental health problems since adolescence,
and had also faced homelessness.

Both believed there was a desperate shortage of housing
provision for 16 and 17-year-olds, particularly those with criminal
records or drug problems.

Chief secretary to the Treasury Paul Boateng admitted the
government had “failed” 16 to 17-year-olds both in terms of mental
health services and housing provision.

But he defended the lower level of benefits available to young
people, prompting Barnardo’s head of policy to call for an
end to the system.

Liz Garrett called on the government to reconsider the
policy: “It does a disservice to young people because it is
rubbishing their experience of homelessness.”

She added that as well as having to deal with homelessness, the
policy meant young people also did not have enough money for

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