Spring Budget: no long-term fix

The budget was a welcome announcement of additional £2bn grant funding for social care to be made available over the next three years, with £1bn to be made available in 2017/18, but this announcement by no means marks a long-term fix to the system.

Today’s Spring Budget announcements could provide some breathing space for local authorities under grave financial pressures, however, questions remain around wider cuts to public health budgets and the pressure they will continue to add to social care budgets.

For many charities the main focal point of the Budget was the additional funds pledged for Social Care. Social Care is critical as the more we can support and care for people in the community, the less pressure we place on the NHS and other frontline services. In essence, when cuts are made further upstream in the health system, pressure naturally amasses further down.

In working to reduce the prevalence and the distress caused by mental health problems, we need to start at the earliest point possible. That’s why we were pleased to see the Chancellor pledge £1 billion to fund school sport. While the health benefits of physical activity in managing weight and preventing chronic physical conditions are well acknowledged, we often forget that the benefits extend to maintaining and promoting good mental health.

Budget announcements are as notable for what they miss out as for what they contain. With no acknowledgement of mental health, nor pledges to address unprecedented demand, the Chancellor has missed an opportunity to pledge support for more up-stream initiatives that can help to prevent people falling into crisis and avoid expensive and longer term interventions.

It is also worth noting that not all of the money announced is new investment. Councils were already due to receive an extra £346 million for social care, £241 million of this being redirected from housing budgets during a time of housing crisis. The Chancellor missed a clear opportunity to address the housing crisis, and it was disappointing to see a minimal focus on stamp duty rather than a broader investment to tackle our need for safe, affordable housing.

Decent, secure and affordable accommodation is fundamental to mental health and wellbeing, and those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness are much more likely to experience mental distress. We call on the government to redouble its efforts to address the housing crisis and ensure that everyone in society has this core building block of wellbeing in place. 

Without preventative action to turn the tide on increasing demand for public services, it will not be possible to absorb the rising costs of providing care and support for those experiencing mental ill health in the long term. This creates a very real economic imperative for working to prevent mental ill health arising and worsening for tackling this significant public health challenge.

We urge the Chancellor to use future Budgets to invest more in prevention measures to safeguard the nation’s mental health with the understanding that to do so will protect the public purse in the long term.

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