I was really shocked when George Freeman said that there is weariness. It was Halloween yesterday, and that Budget was damn scary, never mind wearying. As for asking public sector workers to tighten their belts, it was not about tightening their belts—it was about going and accessing food banks. That is what that Budget was about, and what the Government continue to be about.
I sat here yesterday listening attentively to the Chancellor delivering his Budget. I was not holding my breath given this Government’s track record on breaking their promises, but I am ever an optimist, so I still sat here in hope: hoping, on behalf of my constituents of Bradford West, for this Government to deliver on their all-singing and—dare I say it?—all-dancing “end of austerity” Budget. Alas, even the Chancellor’s self-deprecating humour could not mask the reality of yet more broken promises.
No doubt we will hear from many colleagues, as we have heard before, about what this Budget really means and how it has failed to redress the balance and the crisis in the health and social care sector, with no end in sight under the Conservatives. But for now I want to talk about young people, and particularly their mental health. That is not only because I come from the great city of Bradford, which will have the youngest population in the whole of Europe by 2020, but because, as a former chair of a large mental health charity and a former NHS commissioner, I have an acute understanding of the realities that this Government continue to fail to grasp. They fail to listen to charities such as Barnardo’s, which has warned the Government that they are sleepwalking into a crisis.
Throughout this country we have seen a huge increase in the number of young people, in particular, suffering from mental health issues. Just a few weeks ago in my constituency, I met George Zito. George and his colleagues work to provide positive mental health training across schools in Bradford. George explained to me that 8,500 young people across Bradford have been diagnosed with mental health disorders, but the number with lower-level concerns is estimated to be at least double that. Implementing mental health specialist departments in every large NHS A&E is one way of tackling the crisis in mental health at the last stage, but we cannot afford to provide just last-minute crisis rescue for people’s mental health disorders, as the Government are currently doing with their Brexit negotiations.
When 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14, and 75% by the age of 24, making young people’s mental health a priority allows us to prevent future life problems for a whole generation. The Children’s Society has expressed concern that the Government’s plans for improving children’s mental health more generally are moving too slowly. With only one in four children being reached by school-based mental health teams in the next five years, there was nothing in the Budget to address that. My hon. Friend Emma Hardy mentioned earlier that is extremely disappointing that the Government did not put extra resource into schools to provide counsellors who can effectively tackle low levels of wellbeing and support children with poor mental health.
The reality on the ground is that people like George Zito from my constituency will not get the resources they need, and little will be done to help young people with mental health issues be reached in their schools. With this Budget, the two-year waiting times for young people trying to see a specialist counsellor for issues to do with mental health will remain to a large extent in Bradford West. The Chancellor decided it was okay to trick the young in my constituency facing issues with mental health while his Budget could treat the wealthiest, who are 14 times more likely to benefit from it than the poor.
Between 2012 and 2016, this Government’s cuts led to a loss of 600 youth centres, 3,500 youth workers, and 140,000 youth centre places for young people. This Budget does nothing at all to resolve the loss of those services. It not only neglects young people’s need for direct access to mental health counsellors in their schools but, given the minimal youth services available, leaves them with little or no face-to-face support. Although I sincerely welcome the Chancellor’s cash injection of £2 billion, which has been referred to on more than a few occasions, I am afraid that it just does not cut it for my constituents, or for young people up and down the country. The Institute for Public Policy Research suggests that almost £4.1 billion is the actual figure needed to meet the necessary provision of mental health services.