'Extremely disappointing' government social care plan neglects people experiencing mental illness

05 April 2023

The government released its eagerly-awaited plan for social care yesterday, following many reports on how the under-resourced sector is struggling to deliver the support that people need. 

Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness, said: 

“The social care plan announced yesterday represents a significant watering down of previous commitments, removing funding while increasing demand on staff at a time when the mental health social care sector most needs a lifeline. Arriving on the same day that the Hewitt Report called for government to produce a strategy for the social care workforce, this plan represents a backward step. The government’s failure to bolster mental health social care will result in more people living with mental illness becoming desperately unwell and requiring hospital treatment, putting more pressure on the NHS, while also failing to offer a hand of support to unpaid carers. 

“Not only does the plan deliver just half of the funding recently promised and so desperately needed by the mental health social care sector, but it also largely ignores the needs of people severely affected by mental illness, even though £1 in every £12 spent by local authorities on social care goes towards vital mental health support. 

“Social care staff do a skilled and demanding job supporting people with very complex needs, but amid a cost-of-living crisis, we often hear that people are leaving the sector in droves because they can be paid more to work in a local supermarket. The details announced today provide nowhere near enough funding to recruit and retain the staff needed. What’s more, the plan suggests that mental health social care staff could take on more complex responsibilities currently delivered by clinicians, such as managing crisis plans, with scant detail on whether they will receive sufficient training or be given the necessary time and resources to provide people with the appropriate support they need. 

“Alongside the paid mental health social care workforce, there’s another group who play a vital role: unpaid carers supporting their loved ones. The government’s People at the Heart of Care: adult social care reform white paper, released at the end of last year, was very clear that unpaid carers need better support with increased access to advice, information, respite and help with their own mental and physical health. Today’s plan rows back on this, kicking the issue into the long grass by promising only to do more research on the needs of carers.  

“It is extremely disappointing and frustrating that mental health social care continues to be neglected in this way, and this failure to adequately address rising demand for support follows the recent decision to shelve the 10-Year Cross Government Plan for Mental Health and Wellbeing which would have addressed the drivers of mental illness. The government urgently needs to realise the scale of the mental health emergency that we face.”