Scotland’s Mental Health Partnership has written to John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister, to call for an increase to the Mental Health Services budget for 2023/24. The Budget Bill is currently being considered by parliamentary
committees, with a final decision to be taken by all MSPs in February 2023.
The proposed Budget was published by the Deputy First Minister in December 2022. It shows that the Mental Health Services budget would be returned to the £290.2M allocated in the current financial year – merely reversing a cut of £38M made during the Emergency Budget review.
This would actually lead to a real terms reduction in support for mental health at a time when demand is at an all time high and all services are under extreme pressure.
Lee Knifton, Chair of Scotland’s Mental Health Partnership, said: “We are dismayed at this failure to increase the mental health budget. We are seeing people struggling with the cost of living crisis, leading to vastly increased numbers seeking support. Waiting lists are lengthy and both statutory services and voluntary organisations are under extreme pressure.
“The far reaching effects of the Covid-19 pandemic also showed a long term impact on the mental health of people in Scotland. The importance of promoting good mental health and wellbeing is therefore clear, yet the budget proposals would actually reduce the proportion of the health budget spent on mental health.
“We are calling on the Scottish Government to reconsider and to increase the mental health budget by at least 6.2% in line with overall health and social care spending. If this doesn’t happen mental health will fall further behind, leading to severe consequences for the people of Scotland.”
A recent Scottish Government report, The Cost Of Living Crisis in Scotland, noted that the current crisis is negatively affecting mental health and driving up demand for services. An immediate need for more mental health and wellbeing support was identified. The report also cites Scottish Government polling from September 2022 showing that almost half of adults felt that their mental health had been affected by the cost of living crisis, with this figure reaching 59% in low income households and 82% in very insecure households.
The Partnership is pleased to see a headline 6.2% increase in the Health and Social Care budget, but is extremely concerned that the allocation to mental health has not been increased, at least in line with this figure.
The Scottish Government plans to publish a new Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy in Spring 2023. Discussions with government officials have led the Partnership to believe that this will be an ambitious and forward looking strategy, containing commitments to mental health promotion and prevention activities as well as the provision of high quality mental health services.
Scotland’s Mental Health Partnership is now extremely concerned that the ability to deliver on this new Strategy will immediately be constrained by a lack of available investment.
It should also be noted that a number of other budget lines within Health and Social Care also show planned real terms budget cuts, including Digital Health and Care, Early Years, and Active Healthy Lives. All of these activities have a direct impact on the mental health and wellbeing of communities.