6 key factchecks from Nick Clegg's Liberal Democrats conference speech

8 October 2014 | Full Fact Team

Here is our take on the key claims made by Nick Clegg today as he addressed his party conference.

1. "Anxiety, panic attacks, depression, anorexia, bulimia, self-harm, bi-polar disorder — these and many other mental health conditions are one of the last remaining taboos in our society, and yet they will affect one in four people.”

The Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey of 2007 concluded that 23% of people in England had at least one diagnosable mental health condition. The figure’s sometimes misunderstood as being the proportion of people who’ll be mentally ill at some point in their lifetime, but that’s incorrect. Experts say the lifetime figure, if we could measure it, would probably be substantially higher.

Mental-health-problem4 (1)

2. "If you are waiting for talking therapies to help with your depression, you will be seen within six weeks — 18 weeks at an absolute maximum — just as if you are waiting for an operation on your hip."

This isn't entirely new. All NHS patients have the right to begin 'consultant-led’ treatment - that’s treatment where a consultant has responsibility for your care - within 18 weeks of being referred for it by a GP.  At the end of July, 89.4% of patients who began treatment (where it involved an admission to hospital) had waited for 18 weeks or less.

Services that are not consultant-led are not covered by the right. For instance many mental health services, including some programmes involving talking therapy, aren’t included.

The best data on how long patients wait for therapy doesn’t tell us how many people are seen within 18 weeks. It does show us that about 10.8% of those who received a first appointment had waited for over 90 days, which works out at about 13 weeks. But in a large proportion of cases the patient’s referral “ended prior to treatment”. That means the appointment they were referred to didn’t happen, and that for whatever reason they were no longer in line for one. We don’t know why that might be - for example in some cases the patients’ needs might have changed so that the appointment they’d been referred for was no longer required.

3. "... we've created more apprenticeships than any Government since the war."

Rough data going back to the 1950s from the House of Commons Library does show there are now significantly more apprenticeships than there used to be (although the data isn't directly comparable pre-2002/03). But, what constitutes an apprenticeship has also changed significantly, with people of all ages now able to take part.

Despite Nick Clegg billing this as an opportunity for young people, the number of under 19s starting apprenticeships has actually decreased slightly under the Coalition, while there has been a large increase among over 25s starting apprenticeships. Experts have argued that the increase is because previous funding for adult learning via other workplace learning schemes (such as Train to Gain) has been cut.


4. "The thrill I get every time I hear from a teacher about how great they think Pupil Premium is never diminishes."

It’s too early to measure the impact of the Pupil Premium on the attainment of disadvantaged pupils. But the government has published an initial evaluation of the policy, which gives us an idea of schools’ opinions of what impact the policy is having on what they’re able to provide. Schools said they were mostly using Pupil Premium funding to continue or extend support they were already providing to disadvantaged pupils, rather than using it to set up any new forms of support; nevertheless 70% of schools surveyed had increased expenditure on disadvantaged pupils since the introduction of Pupil Premium. And because the funding for it is ring-fenced, it ensures these services continue to be protected from potential cuts.

5. "[The Liberal Democrats] have succeeded in driving through the biggest and fairest transformation of our income tax system in a generation… Over 3 million people on low pay taken out of paying any tax at all."

This is a similar claim to one made by David Cameron in his speech last week. This year, 24 million people will pay the basic income tax rate — 3 million fewer than in 2010/11 (when tax levels were set by the previous government). This was partly due to a yearly rise in the amount of income someone could receive annually without paying tax.

However, some former basic rate taxpayers will also have moved in to a higher tax band. The total number of income taxpayers is 1.4 million less than in 2010/11, whereas the number of people in employment is up 1.6 million since the Coalition was elected in 2010, or 1.8 million from just before the election.

6. "Disenchantment and anger towards the political class is now at an all-time high and, for a lot of people, we’re included in that."

About one in five of us trust politicians to tell the truth, and apart from a dip in 2009 and 2010 following the MP’s expenses scandal this has been at similar levels since the turn of the century. But it’s not at record lows: as few as one in seven people claimed to trust politicians in 1993.

One in three of us 'almost never’ trust politicians to put the needs of the nation above the interests of their political party. This is very near record levels, similar to peaks in 2000 and 2009, and much higher than back in the 80s when one in ten of us held this lack of trust.



Mind you, a Gallup poll found that only 36% of Brits thought politicians were out to do their best for the country  — in August 1944.


Photo Dave Radcliffe

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