Health Secretary has too much time on his hands
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt says he wants to protect under-18s from ‘sexting’ by, er, having social media firms look at their photos and block the naughty ones.
Aside from the obvious privacy issues (imagine the Daily Mail headlines: ‘NOW FACEBOOK IS SPYING ON YOUR CHILDREN’S NUDE PICS’) and the risk of censorship (would the algorithms know a sext from a Botticelli?), Hunt’s rationale is a bit suspect.
He told the commons health committee:
“I think social media companies need to step up to the plate and show us how they can be the solution to the issue of mental ill health amongst teenagers, and not the cause of the problem.”
If Hunt is so concerned about children’s mental health, why is he squeezing funds for mental health services?
A report by the Kings Fund think tank in October found 40 per cent of England’s 58 mental health trusts had their budgets slashed in 2015/16 – six of them for the third year in a row.
While overall mental health spending was up 8.4 per cent on the previous year, the Public Accounts Committee in September said that since the extra £1 billion has not been ringfenced, cash-starved providers and commissioners will be forced to ‘deprioritise’ mental health.
Freedom of Information requests by Labour MP Luciana Berger found 73 out of 128 Clinical Commissioning Groups who responded, or 57 per cent, plan to spend less on mental health in 2016/17.
Just two weeks ago, nine former Health Secretaries signed an open letter to the Times slamming the government’s failures on mental health, which said:
“Despite the warm words, one year on we see the same enduring injustice, the massive economic cost and the distress suffered by countless families across the country.
Despite promised increases in funding, mental health trusts are still suffering cuts.”
If Jeremy Hunt is really concerned about teenage mental health, perhaps he should spend less time worrying about sexting and more about ensuring mental health services are properly funded.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.