Furthermore, the £300 million overspend that is now being paid back over time will also cause untold damage to services. Any in-year Barnett consequentials for Northern Ireland will not be given; instead, they will be used to pay back the £300 million deficit. This puts continuing pressure on services and will continue to impact people for a more extended period, which could impact mental health services further.
These measures have hit Northern Ireland particularly hard due to the lack of a functioning government. As a result, the budget outlined in the statement could have devastating effects on the most vulnerable people in society, including those who are struggling with mental health issues and their unpaid carers.
Mental health and suicide prevention services are already facing significant challenges due to a lack of resources and staff. The recent Mental Health Strategy highlighted that services in NI are underfunded by 27% compared to England, with 25% greater needs, and receive 20% less funding compared to Ireland – this budget will only accentuate the differences and make it more difficult for services to provide appropriate levels of support required. Without adequate funding, mental health services will face increased pressure, making it more challenging for people to access the care they require.
Moreover, the charity sector plays a critical role in addressing mental health and suicide prevention, especially when government fails to provide adequate service levels. We are often a lifeline for those in need, offering a range of support. Adequate funding to the community and voluntary sector and fully funding of the Mental Health and Protect Life 2 Suicide Prevention Strategies must be a priority, otherwise our ability to provide support to people will be significantly impacted. Without our help, people in need may not have access to the support and resources they require, leaving them vulnerable to deteriorating mental health and potentially suicidal thoughts.
It is essential that the Department of Health takes action to ensure the protection of mental health and suicide prevention services in Northern Ireland for both the statutory sector and the third sector. The well-being of the people in Northern Ireland must be a priority.
Kerry Anthony, Chief Executive, Inspire Wellbeing
David Babington, Chief Executive, Action Mental Health
Karen Collins, Chief Executive, Aware
Anne Doherty, Chief Executive, Mindwise
Ellen Finlay, Policy & Development Manager (NI), Samaritans
Paul Finnegan, Chief Executive, Lighthouse Ireland
Craig Harrison, Policy & Public Affairs Manager, Carers NI
Danny McQuillan, Chief Executive, Start360
Renee Quinn, Executive Director, PIPS Suicide Prevention Ireland
Matthew Taylor & Jay Bunton, Joint CEOs, Pure Mental NI
Margaret Walker, Centre Manager, Suicide Awareness and Support Group