What does the Spending Review mean?
Posted Thursday 21 October 2010
While pundits pour over the details of what has been announced in yesterday's Comprehensive Spending Review and what it might mean for people, we've started to see how these public service cuts might impact on people experiencing mental distress.
To start with some good news, Mind welcomes the government's announcement to expand access to psychological therapies. This is something Mind has been campaigning hard for, for many years. Most recently, during the general election we called for increased access to psychological therapies and as part of the We Need to Talk coalition we published our latest findings last week which outlined the urgent need for improvements. We've asked for confirmation from the Department of Health that this is new money, rather than a re-commitment of existing spending. As soon as we hear, we'll let you know.
We're also pleased to see increased investment into social care. Mind's own research into this area has demonstrated that people with mental health problems are one of the groups most likely to benefit from using personal budgets, providing they are effectively supported when accessing and using the system. We are concerned that personal budgets are being used as a way to primarily reduce costs, rather than provide affordable, accessible social care services. Not everyone will want to use personal budgets so local councils will need to ensure that services are still provided for those who don't want to take them up.
However, we know from your feedback that for many of you your overriding concern is the cuts to the welfare budget. The Spending Review confirmed previous reductions in welfare and benefits including cuts to child benefits, council tax benefits and a reduction in Disability Living Allowance budget, as a way of reducing the welfare bill.
A new announcement was made around the Employment Support Allowance (ESA) and the introduction of a time limit of one year for people who are on the contributory ESA around work related activity. This benefit is specifically designed to help people get back to work and no doubt these changes will only add to the existing anxiety and fear that many people experiencing mental distress currently have. We are seeking clarification from the Department of Work and Pensions in terms of how many people might be affected by this change. We remain concerned about whether those existing changes will really protect the most vulnerable, as the government promises, when we know the systems and practices currently in operation are simply not fit for purpose as they currently stand.
We're also keeping a careful eye on what the potential impact of reductions in social housing, policing and local councils will have on people with mental health problems.
Mind's next steps
- Finding out what money is attached to the announcement around talking therapies. We'll be working closely to ensure that this commitment increases both availability and choice of talking therapy and reduces long waiting times for these services.
- Finding out further detail about the changes to the ESA benefit, including how many people are potentially affected by these changes, how it will work in practice, and how it fits into the broader welfare reform agenda.
- Speaking to our colleagues in organisations working in housing, policing and local government to understand the impact the cuts in spending are likely to have on people experiencing mental distress.
Vicki Nash, Head of Policy and Campaigns
Commenting is now closed.