Turning Good Will Into Action: Now Is the Time to Deliver on Children and Young People's Mental Health

21/02/2016 20:31 | Updated 21 February 2016


It is good that children and young people's mental health is a priority for government. However, we need to keep a watching brief and raise concerns with ministers to ensure that children and young people's mental health remains a priority, and the money pledged is invested in children and young people's mental health and not used to plug gaps.

Children and young people's mental health is now being given the priority it deserves. About one in 10 children and young people have a diagnosable mental disorder, but only about a quarter will receive any support. So lasy week's Mental Health Taskforce report and the money announced are very welcome and seriously needed.

The Mental Health Taskforce report 'The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health' covers all ages, and includes a focus on prevention and early intervention. There are a number of positive recommendations relevant to children and young people. The Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition's briefing on how the report is relevant to children and young people flags up many of these. In particular, we are delighted to see their recommendation to implement Future in Mind (the 2012 report of the Children's Mental Health Taskforce) in full. This document sets out a blueprint for children and young people's mental health and covers the whole spectrum of mental health and wellbeing from NHS through to schools. There was always a concern that this excellent piece of work wouldn't get fully implemented, much like many reports on children and young people's mental health that came before it.

Children, young people and their families may access support from a range of different agencies - health, social care, education, voluntary sector, youth work and so on. Future in Mind emphasised this joined up approach, but at times the Mental Health Taskforce report doesn't fully do justice to this. The report can read as very health orientated. We believe that there should have been far more emphasis on schools and their role in promoting mental health.

An issue that the Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition, along with others have been campaigning on for some time now is the need for current and robust data on the prevalence of children and young people's mental health problems. Whilst current data would seem an obvious thing to have, the data we are all working with is from 2004 and 12 years old. There are children starting secondary school this September who weren't even born in 2004. The government has now commissioned a new survey, but the Mental Health Taskforce report recommends that there should be regular surveys for children, young people and adults of all ages, that are updated not less than every seven years.

A recommendation in Future in Mind that is already being taken forward is the local transformation plans for children and young people's mental health. These plans are important because they should ensure that the recommendations are being implemented on the ground. The Mental Health Taskforce report proposes that they will be integrated into the new Sustainability and Transformation Plans, which will cover all health and care, and should ensure a more joined up approach. Again, we do have concerns here about whether these plans will include schools, and the voluntary sector, and the view of children and young people, in the same way that the local transformation plans are supposed to.

We welcome the focus on inequalities and vulnerable groups; in particular the mental health needs of people from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups. Whilst it is important to address the disproportionate number of people from certain BME groups in the mental health system, there also needs to be more attention on how you address problems at a much earlier stage and work to prevent these problems occurring.

So there is a lot to be positive about in this report, but as ever there are also concerns. Whilst money isn't the only thing needed to take these recommendations forward, it definitely helps. In the current climate with pressures on the NHS, cuts to public health budgets, existing cuts to Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) budgets both within NHS and local authorities, and a loss of skilled staff in some areas, will all make it more difficult to implement the recommendations from the Mental Health Taskforce report and Future in Mind.

It is also unclear how and when this new money will be allocated. Hopefully more detail will follow, but if the majority goes to Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), will they allocate funds to local authorities, schools, voluntary sector etc. So, in short there is much room for optimism but continued cause for caution. We have a long way to go before the collective will for change is delivered on the ground.

Young Minds Matter is a new series designed to lead the conversation with children about mental and emotional health, so youngsters feel loved, valued and understood. Launched with Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge as guest editor, we will discuss problems, causes and most importantly solutions to the stigma surrounding the UK's mental health crisis among children. To read more blog posts on the issue, click here: To blog on the site as part of Young Minds Matter email