The Government’s Spending Review for the next three years has missed an important opportunity to protect and promote the nation’s mental health in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, Centre for Mental Health chief executive Sarah Hughes said today.
Responding to the Spending Review and Budget announced today by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sarah Hughes said: “The nation’s mental health has been put under unprecedented pressure during the pandemic. We forecast that around 10 million people will need support for their mental health as a result over the three years covered by the Spending Review.
“Today’s announcements offer only limited hope that the help will be there when it’s needed, or that steps will be taken to protect people’s mental health and prevent problems from escalating to crisis point.
“We’re disappointed the Government has not taken the chance to fund early support hubs for young people at this crucial time. Half a million young people could have benefited from easy to access early help for their mental health through these hubs. Failing to invest in earlier support sends a message to young people that they won’t get support until they have a more serious and urgent mental health problem.
“We welcome investment in ‘Start for Life’ services and Family Hubs for children and their parents. While the sums available are limited, there is at least a prospect of more support for young families. It is vital that Family Hubs offer evidence-based support for parents that we know can make a big difference to children, young people and families.
“Keeping the Public Health Grant at a standstill is deeply disappointing. Local public health services are estimated to need an additional £1.4 billion to recover from years of cuts which has limited the capacity of local councils to protect people’s health.
“It is unclear how much of the funding pledged to health and social care will be dedicated to mental health services. The Government’s commitment to complete the eradication of dormitory wards and improve mental health crisis facilities is welcome. Funding for education and training to expand and develop the health and care workforce is unspecified, and it is a matter of concern that mental health services have not been included in the funding to tackle the NHS elective care backlog. The Spending Review report also makes no specific commitment to implement the Government’s very welcome proposals to modernise the Mental Health Act, which requires investment in social care and advocacy services as a priority.
“We welcome the Government’s decision to increase the National Minimum Wage and Living Wage. But the loss of the £20 Universal Credit uplift risks pushing more people who are out of work into poverty, which is a major risk factor for poor mental health. Increasing the incomes of the poorest and reducing financial inequality improve mental health for all. A reformed social security system that provides everyone with a safety net from poverty and fair treatment without fear of conditions and sanctions is vital.
“We are concerned that the Government is pressing ahead with plans to create an extra 20,000 prison places rather than investing in alternatives to imprisonment. We do, however, welcome the Government’s commitment to invest in improved rehabilitation for people leaving prison, which must include access to high quality mental health support.”