This was my working title for the blog – others included ‘Do you really think we’re that stupid?’ or the more generously phrased, ‘Who are you kidding?’
Have you read this? Have you? Have you?
It’s the 5 year forward view for mental health.
For the life of me I can’t work out what it’s purpose is.
Sure it’s shiny. And it’s packed to the brim with recommendations…you know…guidelines…
And it’s positively dripping with the word ‘should’.
‘Should’, as in not ‘Must’ as in, ‘You don’t have to implement any of this’.
I’m paraphrasing/ editing hugely here but…in summary…
It tells us loads of stuff we already know about the desperate state of mental health services in England.
It tells us that things SHOULD change.
It tells us work is now a health outcome – as in we can tell your schizophrenia’s gone into remission because you’re working in Poundland.
It tells us we’re going to have 24 hour, 7 days a week (doesn’t sound like government rhetoric at all??!) crisis services for those who need it.
It tells us that these changes, plus pilot schemes, plus research will be implemented on the back of (Austen Powers face) £1 Billion….over 5 years.
I’ve had a dig about and there doesn’t appear to be any reference to the debt these services already find themselves in.
I’m angry. I don’t often get angry since, as some wise proverb or other states, anger gives off more heat than light.
At the beginning of the week the government…no, sorry, a group independent of the government produced this glossy, 82 page report on how the dark days of mental health past will evolve into a positive Eldorado of psychological wellbeing.
Here’s why I believe NOTHING will change…well, nothing other than thousands of folk with mental health problems cascading into therapeutic work.
In 2014/15 the Cost of the NHS in England was £101.3 billion a year…
In 2013 it was reported that, although nearly a quarter (22.8%) of all NHS events were related to mental health, mental health services only received 11% of the budget. That’s a shortfall of £11.8 Billion.
Keep this in mind.
During the times of austerity, 8% of that meagre budget was cut.
That’s a cut of £889 million
We’re told that there’s going to be a brand new, £1 billion over the next 5 years to provide us with God knows what.
That £1 billion – as you can see if we take away the £889 million in cuts – has faded away to just £111 million extra….over the next 5 years…
I know…I know what you’re going to say at least that’s £111 million more than…
Yes it is, but look at how it’s being sold…an extra £1 Billion! To provide us with all of these wonderful shiny services…
But remember – looking at the above figures – mental health services were already underfunded by £11.8 billion.
So…hard sums here…underfunded by £11.8 billion plus another £0.8 billion means it’s underfunded by £12.6 billion…
So, let’s take that generous £1 billion coming our way over the next 5 years…you get er…£11.6 billion under…
I’ll tell you what you get – you get Fuck off you bunch of duplicitous lying bastards!!
And that’s before we even begin to consider the £4.6 billion that’s been cut from social care. The same social care that’s supposed to work hand in hand with the NHS to ensure…do you know, to ensure fuck knows? What can you be expected to ensure when your budget’s being cleaved year in year out while workers on the mental health coal face are being told these aren’t cuts – they’re efficiency savings – and to ‘use yourself as a resource’?
Since the report was commissioned, and therefore not written, by the government, it doesn’t start with an apology for the wholesale slaughter of our citizens.
Or….for lack of services, for insecure housing, for benefit assessments that actively discrimate against claimants with mental health problems, for a draconian sanctioning system that does the same, for pedalling the rhetoric of skiver versus striver in an attempt to drive a wedge down the centre of our lovely British community, and for the increase of 1000 extra deaths a year in folk taking their own lives.
The recommendations made in this ‘let’s look to the future’ document are all well thought out…yes, alright, except for the notion that we’ll be cured by work…the authors aren’t asking for the moon.
While I was writing this I started to think, ‘And how much does a report like this cost…?’
Which, in turn, reminded me of a social work manager I knew, who openly mocked herself when she started saving on paper clips in the hope that it would somehow rescue her budget from a fate worse than death.
We need reports like this. We need mental ill health to be in the public eye.
But to pretend that this is the dawning of a brave new world is at best naive, at worst duplicitous in this climate of astonishing underfunding.
Where will the money come from?
Read the report – it’s already acknowledged that mental ill health costs the economy (if that’s the way you want to view this) £105 billion (the cost of the entire NHS) every year.
I’m not an economist, but…
The authors state early on in the report that we’re winning the war on mental health stigma. I’d love to join them in that belief, but I can’t.
As long as we have structural, institutional stigma and discrimination cascading from those who claim to be the curators of our society, nothing will change.
People are fabulous. It’s time we gave them the opportunity to be just that.
Walk a mile