Policy & Campaigns

A women is writing text on a banner. It read 'in mental health gender matters'.

Wish is a campaigning organisation, drawing on the experience and insight of our members. We put forward our views on issues that affect women with mental health needs in the mental health and criminal justice systems.


Campaigning to get women’s voices heard at a local and national level has always been at the heart of the organisation. Wish campaigns to influence the development and delivery of women-centred policy and practice, and acts to increase women’s participation in the services they receive.

Over the last few years we have:

  • Campaigned against the cuts to Legal Aid; Wish joined the Justice Alliance in this campaign, with our supporters and members taking an active part in attending events, demonstrations and sharing the commitment via social networks. Due to its gender-specific focus, Wish contributed by raising awareness on the impact that cuts could have on women
  • Supported the campaign to overturn the closure of the Independent Living Fund, which provided funds to help disabled people live an independent life
  • Gave evidence to support the Judicial Review of strip searches in female prisons
  • Met with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to highlight the lack of gender sensitive approach to women in prison
  • Supported Inclusion London’s Disabled People’s Manifesto, which called on Westminster and devolved governments to recognise and act on their responsibilities in fully implementing the United Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) effectively across the UK
  • Supported the PIP Court Case in December 2017; Personal Independent Payment (PIP) is a benefit which helps with some of the extra costs caused by long-term ill-health or disability. Wish supported the campaign that led to the government dropping the discriminatory rules which stopped claimants with mental distress from scoring full points for mobility needs, compared to claimants who are physically disabled.
Why Gender Matters

The treatment and care of women with mental health needs in hospital, prison and the community is being severely compromised by the widening gulf between policy and practice, and the lack of joined-up thinking between the Mental Health and Criminal Justice Systems. Despite extensive recommendations to move away from ‘one size fits all’ provision to address women’s diversity of need, women continue to report feeling vulnerable within a system that is inadequate at best, and abusive at worst. There is both a financial and human cost to the current situation. Women are falling through the gaps between systems and those with the highest support needs are dropped from statutory mechanisms when they are unable to engage with services.

The campaign’s vision is:

  • To give women a voice and ensure their views are at the heart of policy changes
  • To build a bridge between policy and practice
  • To unite all stakeholders to offer a joined-up approach
  • To unite all service providers, commissioners and policy makers to ‘put gender back on the agenda’
  • To establish an ongoing dialogue between those who devise, deliver and receive services
  • To give women control over their own treatment and care, their lives and futures
  • To promote the sharing of good practice and hold parties accountable for bad practice
  • To operationalise concepts that are too vague, or insufficiently strategised, to be translated into practice – specifically the government’s mission that the three principles of mental health care should be ‘hope, agency and opportunity’
Women’s Mental Health Network

The Women’s Mental Health Network (WMHN) is a partnership of voluntary organisations working across sectors, which aims to provide a user-led campaigning platform to give women with mental health needs a voice, and drive forward change.  The WMHN’s focus is to improve women’s experience of using statutory services in a range of settings, such as hospitals, prisons, drugs and alcohol, housing, social services, by influencing them to become more gender-specific. Find out more here.

Human Rights

Wish is part of the voluntary sector Health and Human Rights Project, run by the British Institute of Human Rights. The project aims to give voluntary sector organisations information about human rights and help them make use of human rights in their services, advocacy and campaigning work. Wish members have told us that they value human rights and have benefited from those protections. To improve our ability to use human rights we have provided training to Wish advocates, given information to members through the Wish newsletter and we are using human rights in our campaigning and policy work.


The majority of women are the product of an unfair system which has failed them; they have endured a chaotic childhood, and suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse. We represent women’s views at a policy level, including input into and influencing:

  • National policy through formal involvement in the national strategy for women’s mental health, Into the Mainstream: Strategic Development of Mental Health Care for Women (DOH 2002), which has highlighted the inappropriate placement of women at too high a level of security, and led to a step down process for re-integration into the community
  • The Draft Mental Health Act, by providing written evidence to the Mental Health Bill
  • The Mental Health Act Codes of Practice
  • The review Vulnerable Women and the Criminal Justice System, carried out by Baroness Corston, which highlighted the relevance of Wish’s work and expertise to strategic change within the prison system
  • The Why Gender Matters campaign, for which Wish carried out an analysis of the interface and interpretation of policy and practice in relation to gender, mental health, the criminal justice system, and equalities and human rights. This was done to get all stakeholders on the same page in relation to women’s mental health and gender-specific commissioning and practices
  • The NICE consultation Public Health Programme: Domestic violence and abuse: identification and prevention. This consultation was aimed to improve the response of the health sector towards domestic violence. Wish contributed to the consultation by raising the issues of mental health as a consequence of domestic violence and not as a risk factor. Wish also stressed the link between abuse, mental health and offending behaviour, and pointed out the need for more programmes aimed at women’s empowerment and self-assertiveness
  • Pre-consultation for the review of MHA Code of Practice by the Department of Health, Ministry of Justice, and Care Quality Commission. Wish inputted on: advocacy, responses to disturbed behaviour, children and young people, people with learning disabilities and police custody.