Supporting young people’s mental health is crucial, particularly through prevention and early intervention. On average, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life and 50 per cent of adult mental health illnesses develop before the age of 14. Around one in 10 children today have a clinically diagnosable mental health problem.
In recent years, referrals to CAMHS have increased by two-thirds and the number of young people presenting to A&E units with psychiatric conditions has doubled. Yet, a report into CAMHS published in March by the Care Quality Commission found that too many children and young people are still not getting the support they need.
Despite the government making repeated promises to give mental health the same priority as physical health, 40 per cent of NHS trusts saw cuts to mental health budgets in 2015/16. There are 5,000 fewer mental health nurses than in 2010, and a review of the NHS Five Year Forward View has found that money intended for mental health has been used to plug funding gaps in the wider NHS.
The government published its Green Paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision in December. The proposals leave many unanswered questions, including whether the reported funding will amount to new investment. Many of the measures are only pilots and many new forms of support will not be available for all children until 2030.
I sat on the joint Health and Education Select Committee inquiry into the Green Paper which will be making robust recommendations soon.
If the government is to be taken seriously on children and young people’s mental health, I believe it must increase spending on these services, ring-fence budgets and ensure children and young people have access to a counselling service in every secondary school – commitments outlined in the manifesto I stood on at the last General Election.
A consultation on the government’s proposals closed earlier this month. A number of organisations, including the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, submitted responses raising concerns about the Green Paper’s ambition and its ability to deliver the support that is needed.
I will follow the outcome of the consultation closely.