MEAM responds to the 2021 spending review

November 08, 2021

What does the Budget mean for people facing multiple disadvantage?

On 27 October, the government delivered the 2021-23 budget outlining its spending priorities for the next three years.

MEAM has reviewed the detail to identify the key points for people facing multiple disadvantage and the services supporting them. Whilst there are some positive commitments, settlements for individual sectors reveal a mixed picture. Headlines include:

  • A welcome recognition that “tackling difficult policy problems…requires departments to work together”, alongside an additional £200m towards the Shared Outcomes Fund to continue cross-departmental programmes focussed on addressing complex social problems. Further detail on what these programme will cover will follow in due course.
  • A commitment to spending £2bn on homelessness and rough sleeping over three years, with £640m confirmed to be spent by the year 2024/25. Whilst this does not match enhanced levels of investment in rough sleeping services during COVID-19, this represents an 85% increase when compared to 2019/20.  The crucial details on whether allocations will bring long-term stability to services and protect the Housing First Pilots remain unclear.
  • Around £450m capital funding will go towards making mental health buildings safe and therapeutic. However, the Chancellor made no mention of funding needed to implement the government’s proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act, which stand at £1.9bn.
  • Investment in transitional accommodation for people leaving prison and an extra £200m a year to improve access to accommodation, employment support and substance misuse treatment. However, increased investment in building prisons, including the proposed 500 new prison places for women, is a step in the wrong direction. The government should instead further invest in local services in communities, including women’s centres, to help people to address underlying issues and fulfil their potential.
  • An additional £42 million per year is pledged for ‘new programmes that reduce crime and drug misuse. There is currently no further detail on what these programmes will entail. With no current uplift to the Public Health Grant, the level of investment announced falls far short of the level needed to enact the whole-system approach advocated by Dame Carol Black in her recent report. A new cross-government Drug Strategy due to be published this year must provide clarity as to the government’s ambition.

Commenting on the Budget, Oliver Hilbery, Director of MEAM said:

“The Budget recognises that tackling difficult policy problems will require cross-departmental working and a focus on the structures and funding that can support this. It also contains positive commitments to continue funding for people experiencing homelessness, substance misuse or contact with the criminal justice system.

However, in many cases, the investment outlined does not go far enough to achieve the long-term changes that are needed within and across sectors. As outlined in our submission there needs to be a clearer recognition of multiple disadvantage as a cross-cutting issue; secure and long-term funding for all relevant services; and a focus on building mechanisms that can coordinate cross-government investment to best support local change.

As a coalition, MEAM will continue to encourage national government to work towards these aims and to achieve the maximum impact for government investment in local areas.”