It was not a big surprise to me to read that mental health budgets have fallen by 8% in real terms during the term of this government.
But I was surprised to hear care secretary Norman Lamb’s reasoning around this decline in funding. According to the BBC, he explained that budgets were “not the full picture” and that “mental health care is given through a range of services including the voluntary sector.”
True, voluntary services such as mental health helplines offer invaluable support for people when they are at crisis point and do a fantastic job. But funding has been cut here too.
How can he possibly imply that volunteers are now providing mental health care so therefore it’s okay to cut budgets?
“The voluntary sector offers services that are vastly helpful to service users”
The voluntary sector offers services that are vastly helpful to service users but they cannot replace the work done by a community mental health team or by regular psychiatry appointments. Voluntary services should supplement care, not replace.
It is reassuring to hear that new standards for mental health services are being introduced and will be underwritten with some investment. But Norman Lamb’s comments give a worrying insight into a future where volunteers are relied on more and more to provide the type of care that should be given by healthcare professionals.