Politics: Lobby briefing - Hilary Armstrong, social exclusion minister

How can the sector help reform mental health services?

Both by delivering services and spreading best practice. I think the sector has also got to have a really strong role in commissioning services.

What the sector is particularly good at is involving the user in designing services. That is of particular importance for mental health services.

How will you overcome the commissioning difficulties?

In the social exclusion action plan, we say we are looking at ways in which we can 'badge' good practice so that commissioning groups can go and look at organisations delivering in certain areas and look at good service.

We also raise the possibility - and this is in the local government white paper as well - of voluntary organisations being able to mount a challenge if they really feel they have a way forward and commissioners aren't listening to them.

Should there be a limit on how many services are transferred to the sector?

We're not anywhere near that stage. Very often the third sector will be doing things in partnership and it can be difficult to distinguish the boundaries.

But this is not an ideological debate; this is a debate about how we get the right services for individuals to help them turn their lives around.

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