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As we approach the local government elections of May 2023, MindWise are concerned by the ongoing political stalemate at Stormont.
The deleterious effect of having no Ministers in place to make decisions on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland was underlined by the recent announcement by the Secretary of State regarding new budget measures.
While financially little has changed in terms of the allocation of funds to the Department of Health, it doesn’t match the current rate of inflation.
This means that devastating spending cuts on early intervention into children and young people’s mental health and resilience-building capabilities will likely continue.
While the Department of Health Mental Health Strategy 2021-2031 has been a positive development in that it outlined the state of mental health in Northern Ireland, little can be done to implement a huge number of the action points and recommendations due to the lack of a functioning Executive.
Without a government future budgets will continue to shrink and decision-making will be restricted.
This state of affairs impacts people’s lives.
According to research carried out by FactCheckNI, ‘… between 2 December 1999 and 2 December 2004, the Executive was in operation for 937 days and down for 890 (48.7 per cent). And between 8 November 2017 and 8 November 2022, the Executive has been up for 755 days and suspended for 1071 days (58.7 per cent). So the most recent five years of Executive operation has in fact been worse than the first five years of its existence.'
Given that over half a year has elapsed since these calculations were produced these statistics make for increasingly grim reading. This is especially true for the most vulnerable in society, including those with severe mental illness who will be cruelly impacted by the lack of an Executive.
MindWise also notes that there remain significant gaps in research and data gathering onour mental health needs and without this, we, as a society, are unable to fully determine and subsequently deliver services effectively to meet those needs.
According to research carried out by the Mental Health Foundation there is an expectation that ‘… the effects of the cost-of-living crisis on public mental health will be on a scale similar to the COVID-19 pandemic.’