28th January 2021
Scottish Government Budget Gives Little Certainty on Mental Health
Yesterday the Scottish Government announced its budget for 2021/22. From a mental health perspective, the picture is mixed. It is good news that direct Scottish Government expenditure on mental health is increasing, but most mental health spend comes from health boards and local authorities. While we know that health has had a substantial overall uplift, we won’t know how much of that increase will find its way into mental health services until next year. The budget gives a baseline figure of mental health expenditure of £1.1 billion: the same as last year, before coronavirus came to Scotland.
This year’s Scottish Government Budget is unlike any other, as it seeks to respond to the needs of the country following the outbreak of coronavirus and set Scotland on the path to recovery. Indeed, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, acknowledged that we are facing a mental health crisis. The long-term effects on our mental health are not yet known, but we do know that the mental health system was struggling before coronavirus and that this will only get worse without more investment. We need to be ambitious: restarting, renewing or maintaining is not going to be enough.
We know that Scottish Government expects Health Boards to invest in mental health as a priority and we welcome this. However, it creates a slight feeling of déjà vu.
We have been told time and again that improving Scotland’s mental health is a priority. Yet one in five young people continue to be rejected from support and the number of people dying by suicide is increasing. Time will tell whether this year does bring the level of expenditure that we need if we are truly to meet the mental health challenges that Covid will leave in its wake. This kind of uncertainty is not good enough. We need the Scottish Government to do better.