Jeremy Hunt ‘must protect nation’s mental health’ in upcoming budget, groups warn

Nine mental health groups have called on the Chancellor to protect the nation’s mental health in his budget by uprating benefits by inflation and maintaining funding for services.

The organisations, which include Rethink Mental Illness, Mind, and the Royal College of Psychiatrists, warned that people will die early if mental health funding is cut.

They said the nation is facing a crisis in mental health, with millions of people expected to need new or extra support as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and “many more” set to be made unwell by the cost-of-living crisis.

Jeremy Hunt (pictured) has said he will prioritise help for the vulnerable after it was revealed that inflation reached 10.1% in September.

His budget is due on November 17.

In an open letter to Mr Hunt, the groups welcomed his pledge, but said providers, practitioners and those who benefit from services are anxious about the prospect of cuts.

The letter reads: “We appreciate difficult decisions need to be made about the nation’s finances but reducing the funding available to mental health services would be totally inconsistent with protecting the most vulnerable.

“It would also be a false economy as many more people would become more seriously unwell, unable to work and die prematurely.”

It goes on to say that it is “vital” that poverty reduction measures form part of the Chancellor’s plan, as poverty is the main risk factor for mental and physical ill health.

It comes as more than a hundred groups wrote to Prime Minister Rishi Sunak calling on him to honour his pledge when Chancellor, to uprate benefits by inflation.

They say benefits must be increased as soon as possible, rather than waiting until April, or else low income families may not be able to afford to pay rent or feed their children this winter.

This would “send a clear signal” that the Government is serious about prioritising the needs of the vulnerable.

This week during his first Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Sunak said the Government will have to take “difficult decisions to restore economic stability and confidence”, but that he “will always protect the most vulnerable”.

The letter reads: “The cost-of-living crisis continues to intensify. Inflation is forecast to remain extremely high for many months to come. In the face of such economic uncertainty, it is right that you provide households on low incomes with the reassurance they need and uprate benefits by inflation as soon as possible.”

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