Tuesday 18 January 2011

Money, It's a Gas

A lot of things come down to the money in the end so as the Assembly is having its first substantive discussion about the budget today Hafal's Peter Martin and Junaid Iqbal are staking out the Senedd with the objective of holding the Government to its word on protecting both mental health services and, generally, the most vulnerable people in our communities.

Let's remind ourselves what the Government has said about this...

“Health and social services has been protected from any cash reductions in its budget in 2011-12 and 2012-13 and receives a small cash rise in 2013-14. This level of protection reflects our commitment to ensuring the provision of frontline services across Wales.” (Draft Budget p.33)

“Revenue funding for 2011-12 and 2012-13 remains at the same level as the budget for 2010-11.” (Draft Budget p.33)

“We will continue to prioritise spending on mental health services. Approximately 12% of total NHS funding is ring-fenced for mental health services, and we will provide investment to support the implementation of the proposed Mental Health (Wales) Measure.” (Draft Budget 6.para.6.6 p.34)

“The Assembly Government is committed to ensuring the provision of essential social services. Social Services, in the main, are funded from the Local Government Budget and the social care element of the RSG includes the necessary resources to deliver a 1% protection above changes in the Wales DEL. We have also maintained investment in social services funded through the Health and Social Services MEG.” (Draft Budget 6.para.6.7 p.34)

That all looks promising but will actions follow words? Our message to Assembly Members and others keen to protect people with a serious mental illness and their families is to keep a close eye on the money by...

•Seeking a clear undertaking from the Assembly Government that resources for mental health services will be protected and that this is evidenced by transparent reporting

•Asking Vice Chairs of Local Health Boards (LHBs) – who have a specific brief for mental health – to check and confirm that services for people with mental illness are protected in their area

•Asking LHB Chief Executives and Directors of Finance to demonstrate how spending on mental health services is fully protected

•Checking with LHB Directors of Primary, Community and Mental Health Services that their experience matches what their LHB is saying is being spent on mental health

•Requesting from Local Authority leaders information and evidence of how services for people with a mental illness are being protected.

All this and more including a response from patients can be seen in our briefing here.

It can be an invidious thing to seek protection of one area of public spending over another but I think Hafal is also right within the context of mental health to argue the priority of people with a serious mental illness both on moral grounds (they are among the most vulnerable) and also for the simple reason that their dependence on public sector funding is much greater than other people's and in most respects they have little recourse to other ways to get by.

My post title today comes from Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" (1973) which I used to listen to on my cheap Russian record-player when I was incarcerated in boarding school during the mid-seventies. There's a lot about mental illness in the album - the title is a reference to "lunacy" - but nothing all that profound. You can hear the relevant "Money" track here (it's musically distinctive in unusual 7/4 time apart from the guitar solo) and note the famous sound effects but (on reflection at an older age) trite lyrics...

Money, it's a gas
Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash
New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I'll buy me a football team

Although maybe there is a little satire in the lines

Don't give me that do goody good bullsh*t...
Share it fairly but don't take a slice of my pie