The Association of Mental Health Providers has great hopes that the new Government will recognise and take seriously the contribution of the mental health voluntary and community sector, and the essential role it has in delivering care and support across health and social care. There are over 3,000 organisations registered with the Charity Commission who offer mental health services, primarily or as part of their service provision. The sector is one of the largest employers of people with direct experience of mental ill-health, and Association of Mental Health Providers’ members alone support and reach 5 million people with mental health conditions. Many of these organisations are innovative and can demonstrate the health, social and economic value of delivering what is important for good mental health, fully informed by people with direct experience.
The 2014 Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey [published in 2016] found that every week one in six adults experiences symptoms of a common mental health problem, and the most recent child and adolescent mental health survey [ONS, 2004] found that 10% of children and young people aged 5-16 had a clinically diagnosable mental health condition. However, although mental health has received much attention in the political and public arena recently, mental health services remain under-funded. Over the course of the 2010-2015 Parliament, funding for NHS trusts to provide mental health services fell by 8.25% in real terms. In 2015/16, spending on public provision of adult social care services in England was 17% lower than when spending was at its peak in 2010/11 [The Health Foundation]. Demand for mental health services continues to rise with NHS England estimating that the demand for care will rise by 27% by 2020/21. Services, however, remain over-strained with two-thirds of people with a common mental health condition not getting the treatment they need from mental health services, and a third of people with a condition not seeking professional help at all [MHF].
With savings sought in acute and primary care, additional pressure is being placed on community services and so, it is important to emphasise that collaborative working between the voluntary and community sector, NHS and statutory services is vital, and all have a key role to play in the delivery of services and provision of support for people with mental health conditions. The voluntary and community sector has an established history of productivity increases that could be of significant value to the NHS in terms of reducing the burden on services, but it has also been found that innovative capacity of voluntary organisations is contingent on having a public policy framework that promotes innovation within organisations. Our members from the voluntary and community sector have co-produced innovative mental health services with patients, which not only improve outcomes but can reduce costs, but this is conditional on resources being made available.
The knowledge and real strength of the voluntary and community sector finally needs to be taken seriously as an equal planning partner and not treated just as a secondary tier of involvement. The sector is an essential deliverer of what needs to be in place to meet the Government’s priority for better mental health and needs to be recognised as such, and as the only representative body for VCS mental health service providers, the Association is dedicated to supporting the development of the sector to effectively meet the needs of individuals, their mental health and well-being.