The Big Society is the Government’s strategy for reshaping society by introducing competition into the delivery of services. Third sector, public and private organisations are eligible to deliver these services. By positioning the Big Society as a solution to the Broken Society, David Cameron intends that this approach will solve society’s problems. Where do Mental Health and Well-being Services fit into this?
There are numerous problems that face society. Economic problems for instance influence issues as diverse as employment, crime and education. Economic solutions to problems in society can be unique. Take the adjustment of interest rates for instance. Interest rates affect housing and manufacturing and these in turn have profound effects on society. There is no doubting the significance of such adjustments in interest rates. As well as economic solutions there are other approaches to solving problems in society. Although such approaches have close relationships with economics on a number of levels these approaches like the adjustment in interest rates have unique features. Such approaches includes those of Mental Health and Well-Being services.
Although Mental Health and Well-Being services ultimately solve specific problems in society and deliver services to a community, the building blocks of this problem solving approach are centred around the individual. For instance, the diagnostic label while investigated in populations is applied to the individual. The presentation of the person is assessed and if the features of this presentation fit a recognised pattern and meet the diagnostic criteria then a diagnosis can be established and specific services can be delivered. Although this is a crude characterisation of the diagnostic approach it highlights the structured process which leads to services being delivered to a population with certain needs. Services are not usually restricted to a single diagnosis but have a broader set of criteria for services.
Since Mental Health and Well-Being services deliver specialised services they also possess skills and expertise relevant to a specific set of problems. This is the essential feature of services which could mean that there is an important role in the Big Society. If certain problems in society are defined and organisations invited to tender solutions to those problems then Mental Health and Well-being services could be eligible to tender for those services if their expertise could be focused on those problems. The first stage in this process is to identify the ‘Big Society problems’ for which solutions are being sought and to identify biological, psychological and sociological contributions to that problem. If these are significant and there are services which can potentially deliver solutions then they can be proposed in the tendering process with a view to reconfiguration and expansion providing it does not detract from the core service. There will be numerous opportunities of this nature over coming years and it offers the potential not just to contribute to society in the short term but also to how Mental Health and Well-being services engage with society in the long term.
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