A leading mental health charity has warned that spending cuts on council mental health care are being hit more than other social care services, and that it will put extra strain on the NHS if they continue.
According to data collated by The Media Mind, spending on mental health services, designated as services for people “under 65 with mental health needs” has fallen by 5.4% over the last three years. This is roughly five times more than spending for social care has been cut as a whole, around 1.1% over the same time period.
In response, Mind – the leading charity on mental health services across the UK and – has criticised the culture of austerity as “counter-productive”.
Amy Whitelock, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, told us:
“The figures suggest the cuts are disproportionately falling on mental health care and support. Social care can be a crucial lifeline for many people with mental health problems, helping them to stay well, manage their condition and live independently in the community.”
Across England, services provided by local authorities for these mental health services were worth £1.14 billion in 2010/11, falling to £1.07 billion in 2012/13. This figure is expected to fall further in future.
Usually funded by county councils, unitary authorities, and London’s borough councils, these services include drop-in centres, sheltered housing, and addiction support services. The NHS compliments this service, but local authorities are often considered the “frontline” in mental health social care, and provide support for those in the community that do not require NHS treatment.
Amy Whitelock added that cutting funding to these services will mean more people who need the care will be turned away by councils as they struggle to balance their books. She added: “People who are denied social care are likely to become more unwell, in turn putting more pressure on health services.”
The Care and Social bill, which was announced in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, was supposed to lay out people’s rights to social care, but with the cuts to mental health services being only one chunk of the cuts to social care spending as a whole, it may see more onus placed on an already stretched NHS, rather than local authorities.
Some up, some down
However, not all councils are cutting back.
The City of London is one of the few whose budgets have risen in the last three years. But that’s not what is most surprising about the City of London. They spend more than double that per person than any other council in the country.
£195 per head is spent on social care services for people under 65 with mental health needs. To put it in perspective, Camden – the second highest spender in terms of per capita for mental health services – spends £67 per head.
But with only 7,400 people who actually live in the City of London, what does that money go on?
Marion Lang, the service care manager for City of London, pointed out that most of the money goes on helping the homeless.
“Historically the City of London has had a commitment to working with the homeless who, after being connected with the city, become the City of London’s responsibility to support if there are no other discernible connections with another authority.”
The City of London commissions its own homeless person’s charity, called Broadway. Broadway works with over 7,000 people every year to provide housing and support for those without.
But City of London are one of only the few out of the 154 councils responsible for this spending who have had an increase in their budget for mental health services.
Despite some councils actually increasing spending, Mind are quick to criticise the overall government attitude to spending, saying that “making cuts to save money in the short term is counter-productive.”