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£500m funding boost for mental health services hit by pandemic

Written by on 21 November 2020

The chancellor will announce a GBP500m package to support mental health services following the “major impact” of the coronavirus pandemic.

Rishi Sunak will pledge the new funding in his Spending Review on Wednesday, when he will also deliver his long-term plan for infrastructure investment, the Treasury said.

The majority of the spending is planned to go on specialist services for young people, including in schools, and support for NHS workers.

But Mr Sunak, who will appear on Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme from 8.30am, is also expected to make a vow for rapid progress to tackle the backlog of adult mental health referrals.

Image:
Rishi Sunak will announce his Spending Review on Wednesday

The government estimates that mental ill health costs the economy up to GBP35bn per year, and hopes the package will address the extra demand for services from the pandemic.

Mr Sunak said: “The pandemic has had a major impact on mental health because of increased isolation and uncertainty.

“So it is vital we do everything we can to support our mental health services and ensure help is there for people.

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“This funding will make sure those who need help get the right support as quickly as possible so they don’t have to suffer in silence.”

Mr Sunak’s spending review is long-awaited, but it could also spark industrial action if he confirms the government will impose a pay cap on millions of public sector workers.

Analysis: Rishi Sunak must plot a route out of the economic devastation caused by COVID

Analysis: Rishi Sunak must plot a route out of the economic devastation caused by COVID

Unions reacted angrily to reports the chancellor would announce a pay limit, though frontline NHS doctors and nurses are expected to be exempt.

Labour’s shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds urged Mr Sunak to use his spending to prevent a return to the conditions that allowed the UK to be “so badly hit by the pandemic”.

She said the chancellor “must lay the foundations for that recovery” in his set-piece financial update on Wednesday to prevent protective equipment stocks dwindling, local services returning to being “on their knees”, and families being left with little savings and “struggling with the cost of living”.

“And that must include working together to build a better, more secure future for our country, so that we do not go back the fragility and instability of the way things were,” she told the Co-operative Party’s local government conference.

Mr Sunak will also unveil the much-delayed National Infrastructure Strategy for GBP100bn of long-term spending to help tackle the climate crisis and invest in transport.

It was also confirmed Mr Sunak will change the Treasury’s “green book”, a set of rules to determine the value of government schemes which is thought to favour London and the south east of England.