Good mental health is essential for a healthy and prosperous society. Unfortunately, it is easier to focus on what happens when a person becomes mentally ill, and how the health service intervenes, rather than how to keep our communities mentally well in the first place.
- Improving and maintaining good mental health for communities is a vital priority for councils. Poor mental health can affect any of us at any stage of our lives, including in childhood and as young adults. Intervening early to help prevent issues from escalating can dramatically improve an individual’s life chances and save our public services money in the longer term.
- It was pleasing to hear the Budget announce additional funding for the NHS to prioritise mental health services for children and young people, with more money for crisis care and schools-based support teams. The commitment in the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) to boost investment in children and young people’s eating disorder services over the next five years is also important.
- Through their children, family and public health responsibilities, councils are supporting children and young people with high quality mental health support. As a result of funding reductions, many councils are now being forced to reduce vital early intervention work which helps children avoid reaching crisis point.
- The government’s children’s services Early Intervention Grant has been reduced by almost £600 million since 2013 and is projected to decrease by almost £100 million more by 2020. Children’s services are facing a wider funding gap of £3 billion by 2025 caused by both funding reductions and increases in demand for support services. This is not sustainable if we are serious about tacking mental health in young people. Councils’ public health budgets, which fund school nurses and public mental health services, have been reduced by £600 million from 2015/16 to 2019/20.
- Our current analysis projects an £8 billion gap in council funding by 2024/25. A range of services that contribute to the wider determinants of mental health are significantly underfunded, these include housing, leisure, green spaces, and culture. This makes it more difficult to promote mental wellness within our communities.
- Increased investment in children and young people’s mental health services is urgently needed. In particular, the Government must ensure all of the promised £1.7 billion for children’s mental health is spent on children’s mental health services, and not diverted elsewhere. Where it has been spent on other services, the Government should make up the shortfall. This will be in line with the implementation of Future in Mind and the reforms stated in the Government’s green paper Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision.
- Councils and schools need to be given funding to offer independent mental health counselling so children have access to support as and when they need it.
- The LGA’s Bright Futures campaign highlights the important early intervention and prevention work that councils across the country are doing to support our children and young people.