Mind responds to Spring Budget 2020
Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, outlines what the Budget means for people affected by mental health problems.
Today, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivered his inaugural budget for 2020. Heavily influenced by the need to contain the coronavirus, this budget felt different to previous years, as many of the measures pledged are temporary. Below we outline what it means for people affected by mental health problems.
Responding to the budget, Paul Farmer, Chief Executive of Mind, said:
“It’s right that the Government has pledged to invest in tackling and containing the spread of coronavirus, and supporting those affected, or at risk, for example by investing in Statutory Sick Pay, funding extra resources to support the NHS and speeding up the process of receiving benefits for some people who cannot work.
“While these changes are welcome, they are likely to be temporary, implemented as an immediate response to the current climate. The issues the Government is now committing to tackling have long affected and disproportionately impacted those of us with mental health problems, who often face long waiting times for treatment, problems getting into and staying in paid work, and difficulty accessing benefits which can result in poverty and destitution. We would urge the Government to consider making a lot of these changes longer-term.”
On Statutory Sick Pay (SSP):
“Waiting until day four for Statutory Sick Pay to kick in has led unwell staff to avoid taking the time off that they need to look after themselves. The small amount paid – just £94.25 – means staff are often left with the impossible choice between taking time off sick and being able to pay bills or buy food. For some this issue is even more acute, as the lower earnings limit means many people have no entitlement to sick pay at all. The Government temporarily lifted the three day wait for those having to self-isolate, but we urge them to seize on this momentum and lift this waiting period permanently for everyone, increase the amount paid to match the minimum wage, and make sure everyone is entitled to sick pay.”
On Universal Credit:
“Thousands of people with mental health problems rely on our benefits system, which should be there to help anyone who needs support to get back on their feet. The roll-out of Universal Credit has led to fear and anxiety for many people with mental health problems and pushed them further from work. Whether it’s the insensitive assessments in which people are often asked to recount trauma and suicide attempts, to having to wait five weeks for the first payment, this punitive system currently doesn’t work and too often drags people with mental health problems into poverty.
“The Chancellor announced extra money for the benefits system, including hardship loans, allowing people to claim contribution-based sickness benefits earlier (from day one instead of day eight) and relaxing the need for people to attend Jobcentres, offering phone and online alternatives. These measures are welcome but temporary and don’t attempt to address the underlying systemic problems with the benefits system. The Government must end the five-week wait and put in place protections so no-one sees their mental health put at risk when they have to apply for Universal Credit.”
On NHS funding:
“After years of underfunding, we have long been calling for greater investment in NHS mental health services, at a time of increasing demand. It’s important that we have the right workforce to deliver services, in buildings that are therapeutic, safe and help people recover, physically and mentally. Unfortunately, no mention was made in the budget about investing in the wellbeing of NHS staff, who we know have been leaving in droves, often due to unmanageable stress and workloads. Similarly, we’re concerned that, after many promises made, no reference was made about capital spend for infrastructure to address the crumbling and unsafe facilities people with mental health problems are so often subjected to when they’re at their most unwell.”