'It's not an uplift': £1m settlement for Wakefield mental health service criticised

The amount of cash set aside for mental health services in Wakefield has been criticised, amid huge increases in people seeking help since Covid began.

Friday, 4th December 2020, 12:30 pm

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced an extra £500million for mental health in the autumn spending review. Wakefield is expected to receive around £1m of that.

Local health chiefs say they've seen a big jump in referrals to services this year, with job losses and the economic impact of lockdown among the biggest causes of serious mental health issues.

More people are seeking mental health support because of the pandemic.

But Councillor Betty Rhodes, the chairman of Wakefield's health scrutiny committee, suggested the extra money available may not be adequate following years of austerity.

Speaking at a meeting on Thursday, Coun Rhodes said: "We have to make sure we're dealing with stress caused by the pandemic and its impact out there in the community.

"In terms of the £1m I have to say in terms of the cuts you (Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group) have already had to your budget, I wouldn't consider that an uplift.

"I'd like to know and make sure the money is going to be able to deal with the issues out there in the community at the moment.

Councillor Betty Rhodes suggested years of austerity meant the increase in funding couldn't be seen as an upgrade.

"But I don't think I'd call it an uplift considering the cuts over the last few years."

Wakefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which oversees all local NHS services, said it was legally obliged to spend every penny it was given by the government on mental health.

But fellow Labour councillor Martyn Johnson also criticised the settlement and suggested the money was not being distributed evenly across local areas with the highest need.

He said: "It's like blocking a dam. You need to put the most strength where it's at its weakest. That doesn't seem to be happening."

In response, Sean Rayner, chairman of the Wakefield Mental Health Alliance, said: "It's not something we have discretion over.

"It's a prescribed arrangement from NHS England. I can't comment on whether it's pro-rata more or less than other districts.

"Our role is to make sure we spend and invest every penny we get to ensure we meet the Wakefield population's needs."

Local Democracy Reporting Service