Budget is a missed chance to improve mental health, says Centre for Mental Health

6 March 2024

The virtual absence of support for mental health in the Budget is a missed opportunity to improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, Centre for Mental Health chief executive Andy Bell said today.

Responding to the Chancellor’s Spring Budget announcement, Andy Bell said: “The Government’s announcement of an additional £2.5 billion of day-to-day funding for the NHS in England in 2024-25 represents a 4% increase but, with health service inflation running at more than 4%, it represents a real terms cut.

“It is vital that a fair share of this additional funding goes to mental health services which are still underfunded compared to physical health services, with over one million people on a mental health service waiting list. Without an extension to the funding provided to NHS mental health services through the Long Term Plan, the benefits of that investment risk being lost.

“We’re disappointed to see no additional support for other services, such as social care, suicide prevention, and public health. Local government, which provides these services, is facing real terms cuts even after a decade of austerity. The most recent public health settlement saw a 2% cut after inflation, following a 26% reduction since 2016. This means councils will have less capacity to protect the public’s mental health, prevent suicide deaths, or support people with mental health needs.

“Tax cuts announced in the Budget, disproportionately favouring working people on higher incomes, will cost the Treasury £20 billion a year, reducing government spending power without addressing the deeper economic and social causes of poor mental health.

“Freezes to alcohol, petrol and diesel, and domestic flight duties will also cost public service revenue while doing nothing to tackle problem drinking and air pollution that contribute to mental ill health.

“We welcome inflation adjustment to Universal Credit and the extension of the Household Support Fund, which provides vital help to those on the lowest incomes. Taking action to end poverty, and guaranteeing everyone sufficient money to afford life’s essentials, is the biggest single thing government can do to boost the nation’s mental health.

“This is a deeply disappointing Budget for the nation’s mental health. Services remain underfunded, while measures to improve mental health, by addressing factors that worsen it such as poverty, pollution and poor housing, are still not being taken.”

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