This week Phillip Hammond has announced the latest budget for the UK and to an extent it represents a new level of support for mental health issues. Normally we’re complaining about the endless lack of funding or insufficient services for those struggling with mental health, and it seems at last our voices might have been heard. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has committed £2 billion a year to mental health services by 2023-24. Good news, right? Not necessarily.
See, while it is great progress that mental health is forming an active part of the conversation in regards to the country’s budget, is the money going to actually be enough? With such a long deadline and so many people in need of help, strangely £2 billion might not be the right commitment. The major worry here is time and effectiveness. After all it takes time for funding to come through, and then for it to create helpful services which eventually then become available to service users. And people need help fast. There are children, parents and grandparents fighting daily battles who need the end product of this funding today. Besides this, the sceptics are already scoffing at the idea that £2bn will be made available solely for mental health services every year. It sounds a little too good to be true in certain lights.
Let’s say this money does magically appear and find its way to the mental health sector; it’ll be interesting to see what areas of mental health this budget considers. Mental health in young people is the trending topic lately, and with all the horrifying headlines of depressed, stressed out, anxious and suicidal teens and young adults; it’s understandable how we all want to throw countless amounts of money at funding help for them. But this shouldn’t be done at the cost of supporting adults who have their own struggles. There are countless adults who are battling depression, anxiety or any of the numerous other mental health conditions; all of whom could do with structured support systems to be able to turn to.
Many adults who use social care services also have mental health issues, and these crossovers could be the cause of problems with this new budget. In addition to the spending on mental health, Phillip Hammond has also pledged “immediate” boosts to the social care sector in the form of £650 million in grant funding for councils to be spent in 2019-2020 on social care services. The sceptics again all collectively raise eyebrows at this figure, but another concern is, what if there are adults who tick both boxes for the new funding but somehow miss out on the help. £650m is not as much as it sounds like, and with the intense lack of financial stability within the sector, it’s highly likely that these new grants will disappear quickly on the most urgent of cases. So, what about the non-urgent? What about the older people who perhaps need weekly visits from a support worker for minimal levels of help but struggles with depression and loneliness? What happens if they miss out on new services within the social care budget, and because they’re not part of the youth mental health epidemic, they don’t quite get substantial help there?
If the £2bn that has been promised does actually happen, then mental health services are going to have to choose. Who do we prioritise funding for? Who do we choose to help? And the major worry is that adults could be the group who miss out. Because they have a foot in each camp (mental health and social care) adults with mental health issues might actually be in an awkward middle ground.
Hopefully, the sceptics will be wrong and the amount of funding that has been stated will actually come about; and will bring with it a re-energisation and innovation to services within the UK that direly need it. Maybe there will be enough to be able to help both the young and the old fight their mental health demons. Meaning that the budget for social care can focus on adults who need the most intensive levels of support and making their lives as comfortable as possible. But, there’s the nagging question in the back of everyone’s minds… What if?
What if £2 billion isn’t actually £2 billion?
What if there are adults who lose out within the £650 million funding injection?
What if we end up not being able to help everyone?