Probe into mental health help over ‘ticking time bomb’ concerns

Councillor John Tennant, who is also chairman of Hartlepool's UKIP group.
Councillor John Tennant, who is also chairman of Hartlepool's UKIP group.

Mental health services in Hartlepool will come under close council scrutiny after a call by councillors.

Five UKIP Hartlepool councillors tabled a motion at the last full council meeting calling for the authority to put mental health at the top of its agenda.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells. Picture by FRANK REID

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells. Picture by FRANK REID

Proposing the motion Coun John Tennant, UKIP group leader on the council, said it was important to get an understanding of the current level of local services as mental health becomes a more prominent issue.

He referred to a recent rise in jobless benefit claimants in Hartlepool to 3,820.

Coun Tennant said: “That is a potential ticking time bomb in terms of mental health in the town.

“I think its important we become a forward thinking and forward planning council working towards better services, taking into account all stakeholders and put the authority in a position of strength as the future unfolds.”

The motion said depression is thought to be the second leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to suicide and heart disease.

Following an amendment to the motion, the council’s Audit and Governance Committee, which investigates topics of importance to the town including health, said it would look into the issue from April.

It will look at ways of improving access to local mental health services.

Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chairman of the committee, said it recognises the challenges facing mental health services and considered investigating the issue earlier in the year but it was not chosen.

He said: “While the topic was not selected for the 2017/18 work programme, it is recognised that mental health impacts across most, if not all services provided by the local authority and our partners, influencing every aspect of our health and wellbeing.

“We will continue to take every opportunity to scrutinise service delivery and champion the concerns of service users both local and regionally.”

Coun Stephen Thomas, chair of the council’s Adult Services Committee, said: “I’m very pleased with UKIP for drawing attention to mental health.

“Members on this side of the chamber share the concern of for too long mental health has been neglected and has been underfunded by central government.

“We also recognise the devastating impact that mental health issues have on individuals, families and communities.”