We cautiously welcome the announcement of budget increases for Health and Social Care, and Education in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.

These increases weren’t expected and may offset some of the difficult decisions facing many health providers and schools, settings in which many of our members work.

Today’s Autumn Statement confirms an additional £3.3bn will be allocated to Health and Social Care in both 2023-24 and 2024-25. Education will receive a £2.3bn increase for the next two years.

While this is positive, the question is how much will be swallowed up by increased running costs fuelled by high inflation, which have decimated budgets over the past six months.

NHS workforce plan

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt also announced a policy for the NHS to publish a workforce plan for the next five, 10 and 15 years, which he’d championed in his previous role as chair of the Health Committee.

We welcome this and urge the Department for Health and Social Care to ensure it includes a more holistic plan for the mental health workforce to help tackle growing waiting lists that are preventing people from getting the help they need, when they need it.

Alongside these positive elements is the reality that many people, families and businesses will continue to face the cost of living crisis for at least the next two years.

As part of their analysis of the Chancellor’s plans the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) has estimated that living standards will fall a further 7% over the next two years, constituting the largest fall since Office for National Statistics (ONS) records began in 1956-57.

Cost of living impact

We know cost of living is having a negative impact on the nation’s mental health. A survey published today by the Mental Health Foundation found that 29% of adults experienced stress, 34% experienced anxiety and 10% said they felt hopeless because of financial worries during the previous month.

This reflected the findings of our recent members survey, which showed 60% of members seeing clients cutting back on therapy sessions due to money worries and almost half (47%) reporting that clients are cancelling or pausing sessions because they can no longer afford them.

Steve Mulligan, our Four Nations Lead said, said: “We cautiously welcome the increased investment in health and education budgets, and will be closely looking at the finer details of these promises to understand the full impact on BACP members.

“We know that mental health services are already stretched beyond capacity and we strongly urge the Government to ensure that the counselling and psychotherapy workforce is fully recognised within the proposed NHS workforce plan and fully utilised in helping the nation deal with the mental health pressures being exacerbated by the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“Additionally, we need to see some of this increased investment going to frontline mental health services, including counselling and psychotherapy, to support people during these challenging times.”