The recent Budget offered much for anyone interested in mental health and wellbeing, with Phillip Hammond taking the chance to highlight some big investments and changes to the way the UK approaches mental health issues.
But are they really going to make a difference? Here’s our verdict…
NHS MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES
Harking back to the Government’s 2012 promise to put mental health care on a par with physical care, Chancellor of the Exchequer Phillip Hammond announced a £2-billion increase in investment in services to help close the gap, on top of the £12-billion a year the NHS already spends on mental health care.
The cash will be spent on ensuring mental health support is available in every large A&E department 24/7, support in schools, social services and young people’s mental health crisis teams. Mental health ambulances and crisis lines will also be funded.
First, this isn’t enough. The Institute for Public Policy Research reckons that the Government needs to spend over £4-billion to put their expenditure on a par with physical issues. Also, the investment is just supporting a giant sticking plaster approach – treating the issues when they become so bad that hospitalisation is necessary.
Nowhere does it mention educating young people or teaching them tools and techniques to help them be mentally well. We’re still waiting for someone to become ill before helping them, which is neither cost-effective or good for the patient.
Thrive verdict: Two billion is a lot of money, but it’s half of what’s required and doesn’t even begin to educate or empower young people when it comes to dealing with mental health issues. We’re stuck in the same ineffective treatment cycle, but with more money. 2/5
VETERANS MENTAL HEALTH
Marking the centenary of the Armistice by donating £10m to the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust is a very positive move and will hopefully be used to treat the many veterans that suffer from PTSD and related conditions, which often result in homelessness, addiction, financial problems and social issues.
Thrive verdict: Much-needed funds that will provide the treatment mentally ill veterans deserve. 5/5
Research has shown that happiness and satisfaction with life is linked to financial stability – people who have to consistently worry about making ends meet are less likely to be happy and content.
So, any move to help people financially is going to have a positive impact on mental health – thus increasing the tax allowance (personal allowance) from £11,850 to £12,500 a year from April 2019 is going to give lots of low-income earners a bit of extra cash. The minimum wage is also increasing.
Thrive verdict: A positive move but the increase in income is small overall. Will having an average of £130 a year extra to spend make people happier and feel more secure? Probably not, long-term, but there isn’t a downside to having more cash, even it’s not much. 3/5
People with poor mental health are more likely to rely on benefits to make ends meet and the introduction of Universal Credit has been criticised for making people suffer unnecessarily, so any move to smooth over the issues the introduction of UC has caused will be welcomed by many.
Again, Hammond threw money at the problem: “I can tell the House I am increasing work allowances in Universal Credit by £1,000 per annum…at a cost of £1.7bn annually once roll-out is complete…benefitting 2.4 million working-families-with-children and people with disabilities by £630 per year.”
Unlike the tax gift, £630 a year is a reasonable amount and could make the difference between worrying about eating or heating, and knowing you’ll make ends meet. This will have a real affect on mental health and alleviates one of the big problems with the Universal Credit system; that it’s left people worse off than before.
Thrive verdict: Reform was needed but the introduction of Universal Credit was botched…this is just making the system less terrible for many. 2/5
OVERALL THRIVE VERDICT
Some moves in the right direction but it’s too little, too late for the NHS mental health services, who are swamped by mental health issues as a result of some fairly ineffective treatment models. They need to rethink their approach. However, more help for schools (if it helps children avoid mental health issues in the first place) and veterans is a great move. 2.5/5