General election: Lib Dems pledge to improve mental health services for new mothers

Jo Swinson’s party also promises a £10 billion boost for schools funding to give teachers 3 per cent annual pay rises until 2024

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 19 November 2019 23:49 GMT
General Election 2019: What you need to know

Liberal Democrats will promise to boost mental health services for new mothers as Jo Swinson launches the party’s general election manifesto on Wednesday.

The first of the three major national parties to unveil their manifesto, the Lib Dems are fighting to turn around a squeeze in the polls which has seen them struggle to push beyond the mid-teens since the election campaign began.

Ms Swinson will promise a transformation in mental health support for pregnant women, new mothers and those who have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, in a bid to tackle issues such as post-natal depression and stress disorder.

With one in 10 mothers believed to suffer from post-natal depression, Lib Dem health spokeswoman Luciana Berger said the period around birth is the most likely time in their lives for women to experience mental health issues.

“For far too long our country has turned a blind eye to supporting maternal mental health,” Ms Berger told The Independent. “It’s time to eliminate the stigma and provide new mothers with the support they need and deserve.

“The Liberal Democrats are clear that every new mum must get a dedicated maternal postnatal appointment. We also want to increase the support available for those who experience the tragedy of miscarriage or stillbirth.

“The Liberal Democrats will push to make the UK a world leader in keeping our nation well with our push for greater emphasis on wellbeing. These plans for new mothers are key.”

Funded from £11 billion for mental health announced by Ms Swinson earlier in the campaign, the initiative would also include measures to tackle under-diagnosis of maternal physical and mental health problems and to provide public health services – including maternity support – to people from the moment they arrive in the UK.

Ms Swinson also announced a £10.6 billion boost for schools funding over the next five years, to recruit 20,000 more teachers and guarantee a £30,000 starting salary and 3 per cent annual pay rises up to 2024/25.

New cash for schools would come from the £50 billion “Remain Bonus” available if the Lib Dems succeed in their plan to stop Brexit.

Schools in England would receive an emergency cash injection of £4.6 billion next year – £2 billion more than current government plans – to reverse per-pupil cuts and restore the same spending power they had in 2015.

Subsequent years would see budget rises to bring the total to £10.6 billion above current levels by 2024/25. Equivalent sums would be made available to devolved administrations.

Lib Dem health spokeswoman Luciana Berger accused previous governments of turning a blind eye to maternal mental health as she unveiled the pledge
Lib Dem health spokeswoman Luciana Berger accused previous governments of turning a blind eye to maternal mental health as she unveiled the pledge (PA)

Ms Swinson said: “This is an investment in our children’s future. Our schools should be world class, helping every child make the most of the challenges ahead.

“But instead, they are trailing behind. The Conservatives have cut school funding to the bone and children have paid the price, especially those with the most complex needs.”

She added: “It is disgraceful that some schools feel they have no choice but to ask parents to chip in for supplies, and are closing early on Friday to balance the books.

“Liberal Democrats will build a brighter future for every child. By stopping Brexit, we can spend £10 billion of our Remain Bonus on reversing school cuts and hiring 20,000 more teachers – so that pupils can leave school happy, healthy and with the skills they need to succeed in life.”

Meanwhile, Labour was pledging to wage war on 10 “modern scourges of poverty”.

A new Poverty Britain report released by the party accuses Conservatives of entrenching hardship in society over a decade of austerity.

Labour claims that wage stagnation under Tory-led governments has cost the average worker £6,300, while there has been an increase of nearly 50 per cent since 2011 in the number of children in poverty, a 1.5 million rise in in-work poverty and a 1 million increase since 2010 in families with a disabled member in poverty.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said: “Poverty in Britain is now the most visible and widespread it has been in decades.

“This new report shows the Tories have failed to tackle ten modern scourges of poverty, each becoming more entrenched on their watch.”

But Conservatives challenged the report, which they said was based in large part on relative poverty measures, rather than absolute poverty.

Work and pensions secretary Therese Coffey said that the proportion of children in severe low income and deprivation remained the same in 2017/18 as in Labour’s last year in power, that the proportion of low-paid jobs is at its lowest for 20 years and that wages have been rising at their fastest pace for a decade in recent months.

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