Hundreds of thousands of children could be left without proper mental health care if the government continues with its current strategy for tackling the issue, according to a Select Committee made up of MPs from all parties.
The government’s proposals “will provide no help to the majority of those children who desperately need it,” say MPs on the Education and Health and Social Care Committees, who have released a joint report examining the government’s Green Paper on Children and Young People’s Mental Health.
That green paper set out what the government called an “ambitious vision” to ensure children, young people and their families get the support they need, at the right time. In December 2017 they committed to a range of promises, including making an additional £1.4 billion available for children and young people’s mental health; recruiting 1,700 more therapists and supervisors; and rolling out new “Trailblazer” pilot projects where mental health teams provide extra support alongside waiting time targets. But these schemes are set to roll out in only up to a quarter of the country by 2022/23.
Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP and chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said the plan is “just not ambitious enough” and the Committee is worried that the long timeframes involved will leave many children unable to benefit from the proposals.
“It needs to go much further in considering how to prevent mental health difficulties in the first place,” she said. “We want to see more evidence that government will join up services in a way which places children and young people at their heart and that improves services to all children rather than a minority.”
According to YoungMinds, approximately 850,000 children and young people in the UK have a mental health problem. This figure doubled between the 1980s and mid-2000s.
There are three key areas where the Select Committee believe the government need to improve their strategy:
:: Strain On Schools And Colleges
The Green Paper states that schools and collages should instate a ‘Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health’ but the Select Committee says: schools and colleges are expected “to deliver the role from within their own ranks”. “This will only make worse the pressures” on “a stretched teaching workforce,” they state.
:: Exam Pressure
Young people told the Committees that high-stakes exams have adverse effects on their mental health and wellbeing. So the Select Committee says: “The government needs to gather independent evidence concerning the impact of exam pressure on young people.”
:: Transferring To Adult Care
“Young people are falling through the gaps and not receiving the services they need as they enter adulthood,” the select committee warns. “At age 18, young people transition to adult mental health services. But a far more appropriate age appears to be 25. The government must commit to a full assessment of the current transition arrangements between child and adult mental health services.”
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said the committee’s warning about the scale of the crisis in children’s mental health services mirrors what she has been saying for some time. “Many thousands of children are failing to receive support and care when they need it and too often referrals for treatment are only being made when a child reaches crisis point,” she said. “In the worst cases, children have even attempted to take their own life just to access services.”
She said the Committee is right to say the Green Paper is not ambitious enough, adding: “It is time for the government to set itself an ambitious deadline, with staging posts along the way, to deliver a fully joined-up system that closes the gap between spending on adult and children’s mental health services, introduces proper monitoring of need and access, and invests more in early intervention so that problems are dealt with before they become critical.”
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For more information and support:
PAPYRUS: Children and parents can contact HOPELineUK for advice and support. It is confidential and you will not be judged. Call 0800 0684141, text 07786209697 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Childline: Remind your child that Childline is there to give them free, confidential support and advice, 24 hours a day on 0800 1111 or at www.childline.org.uk.
YoungMinds: The parents helpline offers free, confidential online and telephone support, including information and advice, to any adult worried about the emotional problems, behaviour or mental health of a child or young person up to the age of 25. Call 0808 8025544.