Local gov mental health spending below one per cent

Mental health charity Mind has found that local authorities in England spend an average of less than one per cent of their public health budget on mental health.

While local authorities spend millions of pounds on physical health programmes, Mind’s findings show that most areas of the country spend close to nothing on preventing mental health problems, despite having a remit to promote mental health in their communities.

The research also found that 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.

From April 2017 local authorities will have to report on what they spend on public mental health.

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.”

However, council chiefs have defended their record on mental health funding - saying it is ‘wrong’ to look at mental health funding ‘in isolation’ of other public health initiatives undertaken by councils.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA's Community Wellbeing Board, said: "Local authorities do a huge amount of positive grassroots work including tackling obesity, and helping people to get active, stop smoking and cut down on drinking. As physical and mental health are inextricably linked, this has a major impact.

"Councils have budgeted to spend £46 million on public mental health in 2016/17. This is despite having funding cut by central government by more than £330 million over the next four years – a reduction of 9.7 per cent.

"Councils, who only took over responsibility for public health just over three years ago, cannot be expected to reverse decades of underinvestment in mental health spending by successive governments overnight. Local authorities have a finite budget and many competing health priorities. What is needed is a root and branch overhaul of mental health services that focuses on prevention."

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