Spending Review lacks ambition on multiple needs

Introducing today’s Spending Review announcement, the Chancellor committed to “providing more support for those who are most vulnerable and in need of our help”.

People with multiple needs clearly meet this definition, due to their overlapping experiences of homelessness, substance misuse, contact with the criminal justice system and mental ill health.

As both we and others have argued over the last year, to have the greatest impact on these individuals, the government needs to have a clear and strategic focus on multiple needs.

The Chancellor missed a key opportunity to enable this today through the Spending Review process. However, some of the measures introduced today are welcome, and we remain confident that there is interest across government in how to better coordinate services.

Key announcements

Reflecting on what has been announced:

  • While we welcome the additional £600 million extra expenditure on mental health, this will need to be backed up by further investment if we are to improve access to mental health services for those experiencing related challenges such as substance misuse, homelessness, and contact with the criminal justice system.
  • We welcome an additional £40 million additional funding for services supporting victims of domestic abuse, as well as a further £15 million for women’s charities funded by VAT receipts. This will go some way to addressing the specific challenges that women with multiple needs face.
  • We are encouraged by the Chancellor’s commitment to rehabilitation in the criminal justice system, but hope to see further detail on how this will be realised. It’s also vital that plans to modernise the prison estate, which will include the closure of HMP Holloway, recognise the impact that this will have on prisoners and their families.
  • We have serious concerns about the planned 3.9% annual reduction in public health budget and will seek assurances that this will not affect vital substance misuse and mental health services.
  • We welcome the protection of funding for targeted homelessness interventions, but will await further detail on support for homelessness services, in particular the potential impact of the changes to Housing Benefit and temporary accommodation management fees.
  • We would have liked to have seen a greater commitment to increase the supply of truly affordable housing for rent, and we still face a chronic shortage of this accommodation.

Next steps

The settlement in this Spending Review has been less dramatic in financial terms than many had feared, but as we argued in the run-up to the announcement it is vital to pay attention to the detail of how these changes will be implemented.

We have been invited, together with several partner organisations, to meet with the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government following today’s announcement and discuss the potential for improving support for people with multiple needs.

Through this and other opportunities to engage with government, we will continue to represent the interests of frontline services, people with multiple needs and those who support them.