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Revealed: Tens of millions slashed from mental health budgets

Mental health services for children and young people in England were cut by £35 million last year, despite a government commitment to transform mental health care.

Mental health services for children and young people in England were cut by £35 million pounds last year Credit: Newscast

Research undertaken by leading children’s mental health charity YoungMinds, and given exclusively to ITV News, has revealed that since George Osborne became chancellor five years ago a total of £85m has been lost from the budgets of mental health trusts and local authorities.

And while NHS spending as a whole has been ring fenced, three quarters of mental health trusts said they had to freeze or cut their budgets between 2013/14 and 2014/15.

The charity sent Freedom of Information requests to 165 clinical commissioning groups, 97 local authorities and 37 mental health trusts – all of whom are responsible for providing mental health care in England.

The charity's chief executive, Sarah Brennan, told ITV News the results had painted a "disturbing picture of disinvestment" at a local level.

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This disinvestment has to stop. For children, young people, parents and professionals it is tremendously frustrating that for all the action at a national level, on the ground, where help is delivered, services are under enormous pressure.

– Sarah Brennan, YoungMinds

But mental health charities say its not only children who are being short-changed.

Grace Jeremy told ITV News the cuts were 'dangerous' Credit: ITV News

They estimate that over the last parliament, funding for all mental health services dropped, in real terms, by nearly £600 million. That’s around eight per cent - despite a coalition pledge to put mental health conditions on a par with physical illness.

Back in March, the coalition government promised to increase funding for mental health services for children and new mothers by £1.25 billion over the next five years.

Charities like YoungMinds are now watching and waiting to see if that pledge will still be delivered by the Conservatives. There is no doubt the money is needed.

Grace Jeremy, who became dangerously underweight with anorexia at 17, was left to lose another stone before the NHS could give her the help she needed.

She told ITV News the sweeping budget cuts amounted to a "death sentence" for vulnerable people.

In no world are these cuts okay. I had finally got the strength to go and get help but I had to sit around and lose another stone.

When you are a young person putting themselves in a position where they are potentially going to kill themselves through not eating or through the depression associated with that, it is not acceptable. It's not good enough.

– Grace Jeremy

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health today said the government was ploughing hundreds of millions more into mental health - but said that ultimately, the responsibility for budgeting lay with local areas.

We are putting right years of under-investment in mental health services and funding for mental health has increased by £300m to £11.7bn this year.

In March we also announced £1.25bn over five years to improve children and young people’s mental health services.

We have made clear that each local area must increase spending on mental health services.

– NHS England

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