My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lords who have tabled the amendments in this group. I am very aware of the expertise that exists within this Chamber. As we have heard, mental health has not always been funded in the same way as physical health. However, we have seen improvements, not least in the way we speak about our own mental well-being. We have seen a reduction in stigma and an improvement in services, but the pandemic has taught us that there is a huge unmet need around mental health, and I suspect we will not know the full impact of the pandemic for a number of years. Clearly, those groups of people requiring support around their mental health will include us and our children as well as our health and social care workers.
I am aware that in our churches, we do a lot, like other faith communities and other community groups, to support people’s mental health and enable their mental well-being to flourish, not least through our faith activities and our worship. Churches put on many activities, such as dementia cafés; we make available our outdoor spaces for people to undertake gardening to improve their mental well-being; we do walking; we reduce loneliness and isolation, to name just a few. But we are aware that we are not mental health professionals. We walk with people, often in the early stages of mental illness or while they are waiting for referral, and what those within our churches know is that the length of waiting is getting longer. The wait for access to mental health services, particularly talking therapies, has got much longer.
The noble Lord, Lord Patel, and the noble Baroness, Lady Tyler, mentioned the figures; we see the personal impact of that, as people’s lives are put into great crisis and they struggle. Not least, it brings stress to their family and friends, and it impacts on their ability to earn. As has already been said, it impacts on their physical health as well. I recognise that we have increased our determination to ensure that there is parity between physical and mental health funding but I believe we require legislative levers to make this happen. Therefore, I support particularly Amendments 5, 12 and 136 as well as Amendment 99. As we have already said, we need legislative levers at every level to address this parity. My belief is that this will contribute to not just the mental well-being of the community but its physical well-being.