moneySince 2005, 30,000 people with mental health problems have lost their social care support, following a £90 million shortfall in funding due to cuts to local authority budgets, according to research.

This cut is disproportionate compared to that experienced by other groups, the research by the London School of Economics (LSE) revealed.

Adjusting for socio-demographic change, this would be equivalent to 63,000 fewer people with mental health problems receiving social care since 2005 and local authorities needing to spend £260million to meet their needs, according to the LSE. This represents a drop in service users of 48%, compared with 33% of people with a physical disability and 39% of older people.

The research, commissioned by the Care and Support Alliance (CSA), a coalition of 75 charities and organisations, examined the state of social care over a 7-year period (2005/6 – 2012/13). It also found that 1 in 3 local authorities halved the number of people with mental health problems receiving social care support.

Call for more funding

Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, a member of the CSA, has voiced his concern at the findings of the research. “This is another sign that the government is not looking at the bigger picture in regards to mental health services,” he said. “In reality it is cheaper to provide preventative services like social care, which help people affected by mental health problems at an earlier stage, in comparison to crisis services that are currently understaffed and overstretched.  

“As the Care Bill has its third reading and comes under scrutiny, we want to urge the government to commit more funding to social care services to ensure that people with mental health problems aren’t disproportionately affected by cuts, and to allow for a more reasonable national eligibility threshold.”

Mind and The College of Social Workers (TCSW) also found that, from a survey of 111 mental health social workers, 76% said that there needs to be much more investment in community mental health social work locally. Additionally, 65% said that the professional challenge to social workers due to the needs of those with mental health problems has become much greater, as, for example, the impacts of cuts to services and benefits take effect.

Annie Hudson, chief executive of TCSW, said: “In the current tough financial climate, it is vital that mental health services have parity with physical health services and are resourced equitably. It is imperative that professionals work creatively together and that the specialist skills of social workers are fully exploited and deployed.  

“These research findings are supported by the practice experiences of College members who have told us that service cuts are generating major challenges to the work of helping people with mental health needs”  

Further reading: Mental health worsening as benefit cuts and unemployment affects communities, survey claims