Scottish Government cuts nearly £30m from mental health budget

Scotland's finance secretary Shona Robison said she had been forced to make 'tough decisions' on spending.

Scottish Government cuts of nearly £30m to mental health budget Getty Images

Scotland’s mental health system has seen cuts of almost £30m to this year’s budget.

In a letter to the Finance and Public Administration Committee, Shona Robison – who also serves as the country’s finance secretary – said she had been forced to make “tough decisions” on spending up until the end of the financial year.

This includes £391.4m in resource savings and £288.9m in capital.

Robison had previously announced the need for about £680m of savings last month, but did not mention any changes to mental health provision.

According to the letter, savings of £22.4m will be made by “reprofiling of spend on various mental health programmes”, including the Mental Health Outcomes Framework, Forensic Mental Health Reform and Primary Care.

Meanwhile, a further £7.5m will be pulled from the Mental Health Transformation Programme.

In an equality and fairness review of the cuts, the Government said changes to mental health funding could impact the vulnerable.

“The causes of health inequalities arise from the unequal distribution of income, wealth and power, which can impact on wider life chances and experiences,” it said.

“These conditions are commonly known as social determinants and include traumatic and adverse experiences such as poverty, discrimination, loneliness, unemployment, lack of adequate housing, and lack of social and cultural opportunities.

“Some of these groups will be affected by these savings.

“In addition, these same groups of people can also experience barriers to accessing support and services and, when they do access them, existing approaches can often be less effective and relevant for their mental health.

“This means their experiences and outcomes can be poorer. These inequalities in mental healthcare can exacerbate mental health inequalities.”

In her letter to the committee, the deputy first minister said the need for revisions had been caused by a mixture of public sector pay deals – which she said are likely to have recurring costs of £1.26bn for the Scottish Government.

“In the absence of additional funding from the UK Government, I have no option but to make these tough choices.

“This is critical, to balance the Scottish Government budget, whilst working to ensure that our resources are focused on our three critical missions outlined in the policy prospectus.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “My party has spent years pressing the Government about the importance of putting mental health practitioners into surgeries in every corner of Scotland, cutting waiting lists and improving access to mental health support.

“After Humza Yousaf broke his personal commitment to clear mental health waiting lists in the spring, he and Michael Matheson will now have to explain to everyone why they have snuck out a £30m cut to under-pressure mental health services.

“I cannot understand how SNP ministers can hear the stories of children and adults in mental torment and respond with more cuts.”

As well as cuts to mental health, the letter also showed a delay to improvements of ports for ferries, with an associated saving of £75m.

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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