This World Mental Health Day 2016 (10th October), The Guardian ran an abridged version of an article from Inside Housing, highlighting the impact of cuts on housing provision for those with mental health issues.
According to the magazine's survey, there has been a 14% fall in spending by councils on people with mental health issues in supported housing since 2011–12. Between 2011 and 2017 there will have been a drop of nearly £7.3m in spend on people with mental health in supported housing by the 47 councils in England that responded fully to the survey.
As councils reduce their spending on specialist supported housing, the pressure is on for housing associations, amongst other providers, to fill the gap. With less money to fund preventative services, individuals with the most acute needs are being prioritised for specialist support, while those with less serious issues find themselves at the sharp end of cutbacks.
New ways of working are being explored to tackle this challenge. Perhaps Wakefield and District Housing's solution in partnering with its local NHS commissioning group will be more widely adopted, enabling mental health support workers to work with tenants proactively for preventative outcomes.
Richard Colwill, media manager at mental health charity Sane, says the FOI results show the budgetary crisis across the board for mental health provision, which is of deep concern for the charity. “Mental health has always been a ‘Cinderella service’,” he explains, and cuts to services are a false economy: if what initially appears to be a tenancy problem is not addressed early, it can develop into a much more complex issue and they can find themselves supporting a customer experiencing mental health issues. “Care in the community only works if there is provision for people in the community,” he says. “Housing is a really big issue for us. Losing a home or being in fear of losing your home can be a trigger to push someone into crisis.”