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Spending on public mental health is ‘negligible’

Some councils spend nothing on prevention

Jo Carlowe

Thursday, 08 December 2016

Local authorities spend on average less than 1% of their public health budgets on mental health, according to new findings unveiled today. 

This is the finding from data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the mental health charity Mind.

The charity discovered that 13 local authorities spent nothing at all on preventing mental health problems this year.

In addition, the amount allocated has fallen for the last three years, with local councils spending an even smaller proportion of their budget on mental health year on year. 

Local authorities have a remit to promote both good physical and mental health in the communities they serve, but Mind’s findings show that most areas of the country spend close to nothing on preventing mental health problems.

Local authorities are required by the Department of Health to report on their public health spending against a set list of categories, including sexual health services, obesity and stop smoking services. From April 2017, local authorities will have to report on what they spend on public mental health, which is currently reported as part of a miscellaneous category that includes 14 other areas. 

Mind’s figures show that the proportion of the public health budget spent on mental health has dropped every year for the last three years, from 1.4% in 2013-14 to 0.7% in 2015-16.

Commenting, Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “Our research shows that the current spend on public mental health initiatives is negligible. This can’t continue. Prevention is always better than cure and ignoring the problem simply doesn’t make sense. Investment could stop people who aren’t unwell developing mental health problems in the future.  

“It is not acceptable that such a small amount of the public health purse goes on preventing mental health problems. It undermines the Government’s commitment to giving mental health equality with physical health. One in four people will experience a mental health problem every year, yet so much of this could be prevented by targeted programmes aimed at groups we know to be at risk, such as pregnant women, people who are isolated, people from BAME and rural communities or those living with a long-term physical health problem.

“Having a mental health problem can impact on all aspects of our lives, from our relationships and work to our physical health. The personal costs are immeasurable, and the wider economic cost is huge. We need local authorities to use their budgets to help people in their communities stay mentally healthy and reduce the chances of them becoming unwell.”

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