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Local authorities spend less than one per cent of their public health budget on mental health, and the figure is shrinking year on year, according to new data.
The charity Mind used the Freedom of Information Act to analyse figures from councils on how much they spend on preventing mental ill health problems. Councils are supposed to promote both the physical and mental well-being of all their residents.
The figures showed that 13 local authorities spent nothing at all on preventing mental ill health problems in 2015/16. Overall, the proportion of the public health budget spent on mental health stood at 0.9 per cent, down from 1.4 per cent in 2013/14.
From next April, local authorities will have to report what they spend on mental ill health. At present, the data is filed under “miscellaneous” with 14 other areas of spending.
The investigation by Mind also showed that some regions do not plan to spend any money on preventing mental ill health in the forthcoming year. The charity estimates that poor mental ill health costs at least £105 billion a year.
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 black and minority ethnic 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.'
Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s community well-being board, said councils have budgeted to spend £46 million on public mental ill health in 2016/17
But Izzi Seccombe, chairwoman of the Local Government Association’s community well-being board, said: 'It is wrong to look at mental health funding in isolation without considering the range of other services councils provide that directly impact on people with mental health issues.
'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 under-investment in mental health spending by successive governments overnight.'
To find out more about the Charity Mind and their work for mental ill health, please click here.
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