A raft of measures to safeguard the mental health of sacked government ministers is being proposed in Wales after the death of the Labour politician Carl Sargeant.
The first minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, promised that particular care would be taken when politicians left in circumstances likely to attract media interest, as was the case with Sargeant.
Changes proposed by Drakeford include making cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) available and giving ministers the chance to confidentially “declare” issues such as mental health problems in the same way that they reveal financial interests.
Drakeford also plans to make sure information surrounding reshuffles is kept secret before they happen, seemingly an attempt to address concerns raised by Sargeant’s family that news of his sacking was leaked in advance.
Sargeant, 49, took his own life at his home in north Wales in November 2017, days after he was sacked from his job as cabinet secretary for communities and children following allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour towards women. The inquest into his death heard he had mental health issues and was vulnerable.
At the conclusion of the inquest in July, the coroner John Gittins expressed deep concern that no official arrangements were put in place to support Sargeant despite the probability that the then first minister, Carwyn Jones, knew of his vulnerability and that his sacking would cause a media storm.
Gittins wrote to the Welsh government warning there could be further deaths unless better support was put in place for high-profile figures when they were sacked.
On Thursday Gittins published a letter from Drakeford in which the first minister detailed the changes he proposed to make if the coroner agreed.
Drakeford said that having consulted with Sargeant’s family as well as his cabinet and former ministers, he intended to add a new section to the Welsh government’s ministerial code called “ministers and their wellbeing”.
The section says: “The first minister will ensure that the wellbeing of the minister … is fully taken into account as part of planning and preparation for reshuffles. This will include ensuring that the ministers at the time are aware of the support services which are available to them to access.
“The first minister will ensure that information surrounding any reshuffle is kept to as tight a cohort of individuals as the first minister thinks possible.”
Drakeford said practical steps he intended to implement included producing an information pack for ministers and providing them with details of a named official in the cabinet division who would act as their liaison point for any queries or issues in relation to their departure.
He said he planned to enhance the help available for ministers, including offering access to occupational health and CBT, and set up a mentoring scheme under which new ministers could seek guidance from more experienced colleagues.
Drakeford said that subject to the views of Gittins and the chief coroner, Mark Lucraft, it was his intention to make the changes to the ministerial code immediately.