THE BLOG

Early Help for Children Is Crucial to Emotional Wellbeing

16/11/2014 19:52 GMT | Updated 16/01/2015 10:59 GMT
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Emotional wellbeing is fundamental to every stage of a child's life - from starting school to entering adulthood - but a shocking number of young people are suffering from mental health problems and not receiving support to fulfil their potential.

Action for Children recently conducted research revealing no signs of improvement for these children, with 91% of professionals working with vulnerable young people in our services seeing levels of mental health problems either rising or staying the same over the past year.

I find it deeply worrying that at the same time our frontline staff are saying this, early help services that provide crucial support for children are under increasing pressure. Many targeted support services are seeing cuts to their budgets, while services open to the general public, such as children's centres, are facing ever growing demand.

This issue isn't just about children and young people. Action for Children is also concerned the pressures faced by parents, such as job loss and debt, are having a detrimental impact on families; over half of the charity's services - 56% - reported a rise in parental depression over the same period.

At Action for Children, we do everything we can to help families provide safe, supportive homes in which everyone can thrive. Through services such as our Family Intervention Projects, we provide early help for households before they reach a crisis point. Our children's centres, meanwhile, give families a supportive space where they can seek advice without stigma. These services tackle a range of issues which, if left unaddressed, can turn households into pressure cookers in which the emotional wellbeing of children and their parents suffers.

What will help families the most is a government re-think of how we ensure families get this kind of support before they reach a crisis point - early action is the key. With demand growing on services, we are approaching a tipping point. Action for Children is proposing the Government dedicates more existing funding to early support. It is not about significant increases, but ensuring a balance between supporting families at crisis point and providing early help to prevent more families from reaching that stage.

The government has made some excellent strides in this area, but political support has not translated into sustained action or protected budgets to make support before crisis the norm.

The urgency about mental health and emotional wellbeing cannot be ignored. The government has acknowledged this as well - last month, Nick Clegg announced new waiting time targets for those afflicted by common mental conditions such as depression and anxiety, saying mental health could no longer be treated as a "second-class illness". Children's minister Edward Timpson recently told the Guardian newspaper: "Whoever's in government from May next year, there needs to be a real drive to put children's mental health centre-stage, because it is a common thread through a lot of the children's lives I have come across who have suffered more than they needed to."

These measures and intentions are welcome, but the government must produce a comprehensive, more detailed plan for tackling this issue as early as possible, particularly in relation to children.

The future of countless young people hangs in the balance - the time for discussion is over and action must be taken now.