The Government has announced a £5m fund to support the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector on suicide prevention services, in order to help meet increasing demand from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The support will be targeted at ‘high-risk’ groups, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), including NHS and social care staff who have faced ‘enormous pressure’ over the past 18 months.
Others included will be those with a pre-existing mental illness, children and young people, and those in contact with the criminal justice system.
It comes after the NHS set a deadline of 2025 to ‘formalise an approach’ to ensure healthcare staff can access health and care services when needed.
Of the funding, £4m will go towards helping organisations set up new projects or expand or sustain current services. The other £1m will support existing and ongoing voluntary sector suicide prevention programmes.
The DHSC said the VCSE sector was ‘crucial’ to providing services alongside NHS services.
Minister for mental health, Gillian Keegan, said: ‘I know the last 18 months have been really challenging and many more people have been asking for help with their mental health.
‘The entire suicide prevention voluntary sector has played a crucial role in providing people with the help and support they need throughout the pandemic, and I encourage them to apply for this funding so we can continue to support our communities.’
Paul Farmer, chief executive of mental health charity Mind, said: ‘t is so important anyone experiencing suicidal feelings has somewhere to turn to if they need it. So, we welcome extra short-term support to help prevent people reaching crisis point.
‘However, we also need to see additional investment which helps prevent the issues which can cause or worsen mental health problems and lead to suicidal feelings – things like insecure housing and employment, racism, and racial trauma, being pushed into debt and poverty because of cuts to universal credit or other benefits, loneliness and isolation, and difficulties accessing mental health services.
‘All of these are having a huge impact on our mental health, which have been further exacerbated by the pandemic.’
Last week, the RCGP chair in Northern Ireland, Dr Laurence Dorman, told the Health Committee in Northern Ireland that ‘every week’ they were hearing of staff members in GP practices resigning due to the pressures faced by the sector.
The House of Commons health and social care committee last week announced an inquiry into NHS recruitment, training and retention, including looking at the factors driving staff to leave the NHS workforce.