We’re disappointed the Chancellor has failed to invest in ensuring people have a choice of accessible therapy in his Spring Budget.
While Jeremy Hunt focused on growth and employability in his announcement, there was little to tackle the mental health crisis which is being exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.
There was an emphasis on employment support, with £400m investment in helping people unable to work or forced to leave work due to mental health and musculoskeletal issues.
It included a commitment to ensure digital resources, such as apps for management of mental health and musculoskeletal conditions, are freely available.
And there was a wider ambition to “pilot cutting-edge digital therapies” and “digitise the NHS Talking Therapies programme”.
Lack of investment in therapy
Disappointingly, there wasn’t a similar commitment to increase investment in much-needed face-to-face support, ensuring people have a choice of accessible and timely therapy.
This would help to meet the demands on increasingly stretched NHS services by bringing more counsellors and psychotherapists into the mental health workforce.
Our Chief Executive Anna Daroy said: “We’re disappointed today’s budget fails to tackle the pressures on the mental health system that have escalated through the pandemic and the ongoing cost of living crisis.
“It’s pleasing to see recognition by the Government of the need to tackle the mental health barriers which prevent people working and can lead to people losing their jobs.
“However, we’d liked to have seen a similar commitment to giving people access to a range of therapeutic interventions, particularly as longstanding evidence shows that choice can have a positive impact on outcomes.”
VCSE and charity support
We’re pleased to see a new £10 million grant fund, which will be available until 2025 for suicide prevention. Available for voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations in England, the grant fund aims to support people experiencing suicidal thoughts or approaching a mental health crisis.
We’re also pleased to see some recognition of the need to support charities through the cost of living crisis, backed by a new £100m fund. We hope this will support many of our organisational members to offset some of the rising costs they have seen over the past year.
The Chancellor also confirmed that the forthcoming occupational health pilot subsidy scheme for SMEs will be expanded.
A separate consultation on options for incentivising greater take-up of occupational health provision through the tax system will also be launched.
In both cases we're keen to ensure this looks at services and initiatives which can provide mental health support to more employees, including access to counselling and psychotherapy.
While a VAT exemption was extended to services provided by pharmacists, the Government again failed to deliver on our long-standing call for an exemption for counselling and psychotherapy.
Anna said: “A VAT exemption for counselling and psychotherapy would remove an unfair anomaly compared to other similar mental health professions, and which adds unnecessary costs which could be a barrier to many more people accessing our members’ services.”
Anna added: “We’re also pleased to see a £10m commitment to suicide prevention aimed at the voluntary and community sector, where so many of our organisational members do such important work.
“This is an important start, but we would like to see additional commitments made alongside the long awaited Suicide Prevention Action Plan when it is published later in the year.
“The Major Conditions Strategy is the next significant opportunity for the Government to address the growing mental health crisis and invest in measures that will deliver real improvements for people facing increasing pressures and reduce mental health inequalities.”
We’ll be looking closely at the details of the budget over the coming days to assess the full impact on our members and the profession.
Advancing the profession
How we work to promote counselling and psychotherapy
Influencing decision makers
We work with with politicians and decision makers from all four nations to help them understand the positive changes that counselling can make to people's lives.
In the context of a challenging employment market, driving growth in paid opportunities and bringing employers closer to our professions is a key priority for BACP.