Changes to the benefits system are increasing demand on mental health services, a report by NHS Providers has suggested.
The report identifies widespread concerns about benefits cuts and the impact of universal credit. It also suggests that loneliness, homelessness and financial hardship are adding to pressures on NHS mental health services.
Leaders from over half of NHS mental health trusts took part in the survey featured in the report. Key findings include more than nine out of ten (92%) said changes to benefits including universal credit are increasing demand for mental health services in their area,
a similar proportion (97%) pointed to increased loneliness and isolation, while 95% indicated that homelessness was a factor. Additionally, 98% cited financial hardship, and 91% pointed to cuts in local services.
‘Changes to the benefits system in recent years, and austerity generally, have had a devastating impact on the lives of many people with mental health problems,’ said Mind’s Chief Executive Paul Farmer.
‘It’s clear that difficult life circumstances and mental health problems are closely linked, yet the relationship between them isn’t taken into account enough. If you have a mental health problem you are more likely to need support from the benefits system, experience poor housing and may struggle to stay in work without the right support, while the enormous challenges of dealing with difficult life events and trying access support can take a huge toll on mental health.’
The survey also looks at the impact workforce shortages are having on mental health trusts’ ability to meet demand and provide care. Fewer than one in ten (9%) were confident they currently have the staff they need. When asked about the numbers and skills of staff in two years time, nearly two thirds (62%) said they were very worried about staff shortages.