We have to act now to save mental health services for our children and young people – My article for Stockport Express

SE articleOne in 10 children in the UK today has a diagnosable mental health condition,[1] that’s three children in every primary and secondary school across the UK.

We know that if milder conditions are not correctly identified and treated early in a child’s life that it can lead to more significant problems. In a landmark 2014 report, the mental health charity, Mind [2] identified the link which showed that children without the correct level of support suffered significantly greater barriers to further education and career opportunities.

Given that over half of mental health problems start by the age of fourteen it is vital that we do all we can to support young people from an early age.

When Theresa May first entered Downing Street she rightly recognised the importance of supporting children with mental health problems early on. In her first speech as Prime Minister, Mrs May acknowledged that “if you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand”.[3]

Despite Mrs May’s claims, some local NHS areas are spending less than £10 a head on the mental health of children and young people in their communities due to budgetary pressures,[4] with some struggling boroughs only able to devout around £2 per head for young people.

Yet I have sat in the Chamber in recent months as MP’s of all parties, have piled pressure on Mrs May as more and more parents have to play a dangerous game of roulette with their child’s mental health while waiting for the luck of the postcode lottery.

It is a national scandal that opportunities to prevent mental illness from occurring in childhood are being missed because of unacceptably low investment at the same time that services are at breaking point due to record admissions. At the end of 2016, NHS mental health services were treating 234,000 children and young people in England every month, a record; and that the real figure was much higher because 40% of mental health trusts had not reported on how many patients under 18 they had.

Although the government announced an extra £1.4 billion in funding for child mental health spending it has now been discovered that much of these funds are being diverted to prop up other desperately stretched services[5] such as GP surgeries and hiring agency staff to plug ward gaps. This theft of desperately needed funds intended to improve the lives of young people is wrong; our NHS services are at breaking point and its embarrassing that we are now in a situation where we have to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul.’

Labour recognised the very specific importance of mental health which is why we made the decision to create a ministerial post that addressed Britain’s growing mental health crisis; today my colleague and friend, Barbara Keeley (MP for Worsley and Eccles South) is leading that fight in the Commons.

We call on the Government to bring forward the £700m of social care funding planned for 2019/20 now so that mental health does not become another case study in Tory failure.

Originally published in Stockport Express, 5th April 2017.

 

[1] http://www.youngminds.org.uk/training_services/policy/mental_health_statistics

[2] https://www.mind.org.uk/media/1690126/weve_got_work_to_do.pdf

[3] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/statement-from-the-new-prime-minister-theresa-may

[4] http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mediacentre/pressreleases2016/underfundedcamhsresearch.aspx

[5] http://www.youngminds.org.uk/about/our_campaigns/childrens_mental_health_funding

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