Labour’s new party leader Jeremy Corbyn has appointed Luciana Berger as shadow minister for mental health in a newly created position.
Ms Berger is MP for Liverpool Wavertree and was formerly a shadow public health minister under Ed Miliband’s leadership.
“Inspired decision to make mental health a specific shadow cabinet role”
Mr Corbyn was elected on Saturday after achieving 59% of the vote in the leadership contest, beating fellow candidates including Mr Burnham who came second with 19% of the vote.
The new Labour party leader has previously spoken about the importance of tackling mental health issues, saying during his leadership campaign he would look to grow mental health budgets – particularly for children.
His proposals also included increasing the number of mental health professionals and setting up a national study into the mental health of children and young people
In addition, he has proposed addressing high rates of mental illness among women plus the over-representation of people from black and minority ethnic communities in long-stay institutions.
Commenting on the new shadow minister position, former Labour health secretary Andy Burnham said via social media platform Twitter: “Inspired decision to make mental health a specific shadow cabinet role and no better person to do it than @lucianaberger.”
Earlier this summer, Mr Corbyn said he would recommit Labour to a publicly funded NHS, pledging to eradicate private finance initiative (PFI) funding, the repayments for which he claimed were leading to staff and service cuts at trusts.
“Jeremy Corbyn has immediately put mental health right at the heart of the political debate, which is where it has to be”
Alan Simpson, professor of collaborative mental health nursing at City University London, described Ms Berger’s appointment as “fantastic news” and that it had “immediately put mental health right at the heart of the political debate”.
“On his first day as Labour leader, Mr Corbyn made a very thoughtful speech about the need to recognise that mental health is an intrinsic part of our national health service and an absolutely central part of people’s lives,” he said. “I have no doubt many mental health workers, service users and their families will be cheering loudly to hear a leading politician take such a bold, unequivocal stance.
“I hope the new shadow minister for mental health, Luciana Berger, will as a first step get out and about and listen to what mental health service users and people working in health and social care services have to say,” he added.