Westminster Hall debate briefing - Social Care reform

 

Mental health social care is a vital and overlooked aspect of the social care in the UK. Without investment in local authority budgets the enormous benefits it brings to people severely affected by mental illness across the county could be lost. We ask that you raise the profile on mental health social care during Thursday’s Westminster Hall debate on social care reform and the social care workforce, and support demands for adequate funding.

Suggested questions to raise during the debate

• What assessment has the Government made of the DHSC convened Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisory Group’s recommendation for £1.1bn investment in mental health social care budgets?

• When will the Government publish its response to the Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisory Group’s recommendations, after committing to review them in the mental health winter plan?

• What plans does the Government have to ensure that the needs of working age adults, and people severely affected by mental illness, are included in social care reforms?

• What assessment has the Government made of whether the aims in the Care Act are being delivered in practice for people severely affected by mental illness?

 

Why does social care matter to people severely affected by mental illness?

People severely affected by mental illness rely on more than the NHS services to support their recovery. Even if someone receives world class clinical treatment, but they live in insecure housing, rarely leave the house, and have little by way of social interaction, there is only so much that the NHS can do.

Local authority funded social care services helps address that gap. Social workers support people severely affected by mental illness to access supported housing or help them in their home, as well as help to access peer support, financial and welfare advice and work. Together they play a crucial role in supporting people severely affected by mental illness and their carers. We set out how important these forms of support are in our Building Communities that Care report.

 

The challenge for local authorities and the services they fund

The pandemic has placed huge pressures on local authority budgets. A recent report by the NAO showed that many local authorities have made unplanned in-year savings and plan to make further reductions as a result, and that as many as a third are at least medium risk of financial failure.

At the same time, a report by the DHSC convened Mental Health Advisory Group noted the challenges people severely affected by mental illness have faced during the pandemic. These included increased isolation, reduced access to social care services, increased need and a corresponding increased risk number of people reaching crisis point. This means that as resource pressures have increased, demand has grown.

Rethink Mental Illness and other members of the Association of Mental Health Providers are seeing the repercussions of the difficult financial environment local authorities face and are concerned that these vital services will be reduced in scope or lost in the coming financial year.

Research conducted by the Association of Mental Health Providers showed that lengthier waiting lists, increased demand for emergency services and other NHS services, left without any support, higher risk cases, service user confusion and damage to integration were all cited in response.

 

Why does this matter now?

The vision set out in the NHS Long Term Plan has the potential to transform the support people severely affected by mental illness receive. From April 2021 the NHS is due to receive nearly £1 billion of transformation funding every year for the next three years to turn this vision into reality and deliver NHS England’s Community Mental Health Framework. At a pivotal moment for people severely affected by mental illness, services that are crucial to realising this could be withdrawn.

Our Right Treatment, Right Time report clearly highlighted the gaps in services for people severely affected by mental illness. For decades too many people had been told that they are too unwell for primary care, but not unwell enough for more specialist services. For the first time, the CMHF sets out a transformative plan to change this status quo and the mental health care and support adults receive in their community, using a ‘no wrong door’ approach to ensure people severely affected by mental illness get the help they need.

The place-based vision laid out in the CMHF can only be delivered if social care, and local authorities themselves, are funded as equal partners. The availability of, and relationships with, non-clinical services will be key to its success, as the CMHF envisages health and social care working together around the person they support.

 

What is the solution?

DHSC’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Advisory Group made a number of recommendations last year. One of these was that the ‘restoration of mental health related adult social care budgets to 2010/11 levels is a priority. Estimated at an additional £1.1 billion per annum’. The Government committed to review to the group’s recommendations, but no response has been published to date.

Ahead of the Spring Budget, our call for increased investment was supported by a cross party group of parliamentarians, 23 sector organisations, and organisations involved in Somerset as one of the early implementors of the CMHF in Somerset.

 

How can you help?

Raise the points highlighted in the briefing during the debate
Please get in touch if you have any questions or requests on the briefing’s content.

Meet with us to discuss the future of mental health social care
We would be delighted to meet with you to discuss mental health social care and what you can do to improve services for your constituents in more detail.

Table parliamentary questions
We have a number of important parliamentary questions that we would appreciate your support in tabling.

Further information

For further information please contact Tristan Westgate, Public Affairs and Stakeholder Manager at Rethink Mental Illness, at tristan.westgate@rethink.org

About Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness is a charity that improves the lives of people severely affected by mental illness through local groups and services, expert information and training and successful campaigning.

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