One of Lagan Valley’s newest MLAs, Ulster Unionist Robbie Butler, made his maiden speech in the Assembly last week, taking the opportunity to raise his concerns about the health service.
“The first topic I am speaking on is the greatest challenge facing the Executive at present: the very serious crisis in our local health service,” said Mr Butler,
“I hope we can all agree that health is an issue that is far too important to get caught up in political wrangling.
“I was delighted and honoured to be given the role of spokesperson on mental health for the Ulster Unionist Party.
“My party recently produced a policy paper on mental health, and no one can deny the shameful statistics that have been published on this country’s atrocious rates of suffering due to poor mental health and well-being.
“The legacy of the Troubles, terrorism and associated criminality contribute heavily in this regard, and, coupled with poor government strategy and direction, that is leading to the social inequalities and social deprivation that blight our society.
“My various roles whilst working in the Fire and Rescue Service taught me that, although intervention is a vital component to ease the suffering and save the lives of those affected by trauma, the most effective strategy must be prevention.
“It is to that end that I would like to see a process developed that delivers an infant mental health framework that identifies and addresses issues at children’s earliest stages, coupled with a compulsory educational element for schoolchildren that looks at social and emotional learning and will complement the development of our children into healthier and happier adults.
“I give my personal and party commitment to raise the profile of mental health and well-being with the Minister and the Health Department and to seek parity of funding that will ensure that those who suffer are afforded the care required to help them live their life to their full potential.”