Mental Health

09.05.18

‘Unambitious’ mental health green paper will fail thousands of children

The proposed Green Paper on child mental health is “unambitious” and “ignores hundreds of thousands of children,” government committees have warned.

In a joint report, the Education and Health and Social Care committees have said that the Green Paper will provide no help to the majority of children who are desperately in need.

The government is rolling out new “Trailblazer” pilot projects where mental health teams provide extra support alongside waiting time targets, but the committees have said that they are concerned that the long timeframes involved in this will leave huge numbers of children unable to benefit.

By 2022-23 the scheme is expected to have been rolled out to just a fifth to a quarter of the country.

Dr Sarah Wollaston, chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, said: “The Green Paper is just not ambitious enough and will leave so many children without the care they need.

“It needs to go much further in considering how to prevent mental health difficulties in the first place.”

She said that the committee wants to see more evidence that the government will join up services in a way that places children and young people at their heart, improving services to all children rather than a minority.

The Green Paper wants to see schools and colleges to deliver the “Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health” role, but the report warns that this will make existing pressures worse and said that the government must ensure that the existing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) workforce is not overburdened by the demands of the Green Paper.

According to the report, a third of 18 year olds drop out of mental health support rather than transitioning to adult mental health services.

The committees have called for the government to commit to a full assessment of the current transition arrangements between child and adult mental health services, proposing 25 as a more appropriate age.

They also call for a distinct and separate set of proposals for looked after children accessing mental health services.

Responding to the report, Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said the organisation welcomed the select committees’ “strongly worded critique,” arguing that the report highlights the scale and urgency of the challenges that surround children’s mental health.

“Trust leaders tell us demand for mental health care is growing rapidly, particularly for CAMHS,” Cordery added.

However, she noted that it is important to acknowledge the progress that has been made in some vital areas, particularly in perinatal mental health.

“Trusts are doing all they can to provide the best possible care with the resources available,” said the NHS Providers lead. “But it is extremely worrying that MPs on these highly respected committees have found the government’s strategy on child mental health falls so far short of what is required.”

Javed Khan, chief executive of Barnardo’s, warned that the government risks missing a “golden opportunity to radically transform a failing mental health system.”

He said: “Despite Theresa May describing it as a ‘burning injustice’ that required a new approach from government, we now find ourselves sleep-walking into a deepening mental health crisis.”

A government spokesperson completed rejected the suggestion that the plans lack ambition, arguing that they will transform mental health services for children and young people with the first ever waiting time standards for those with the most serious problems.

They said: “This will be supported by a new workforce - larger than the entire current workforce - and backed by £300m of additional funding that will also provide significant additional resources for all schools. This builds on what good schools are already doing, without adding to teachers’ workloads.

“We agree that every young person should be able to access mental health support – however we need to ensure we get this right, which is why we will pilot this approach to make sure services are correct.”

 

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