I have welcomed a new Government initiative to support children and young people with mental health issues.
A new Government Green Paper introduced this month sets out proposals to intervene earlier in young people’s and children’s mental health, in particular through closer working between the NHS and schools.
Around 850,000 children – one in ten – have a diagnosed mental health condition, such as anxiety, depression or eating disorders.
The Government hopes that by identify and intervening early the NHS can treat and stop mental health problems from turning into something far more serious. New funding will be made available to take forward the final plans following a consultation. The proposals as set out in the Green Paper would cost £215m over the next three years and include:
- Senior leads for mental health: Every school and college in England will also be incentivised to appoint a designated senior lead for mental health to co-ordinate existing school-based support as well as helping children to access specialist therapies and other NHS treatments if they need them. Supported by a training package of up to £95 million from 2019, the designated senior leads will also be responsible for developing a “whole school approach” to mental health and wellbeing – including making sure pastoral support is available for all pupils and that strong policies are in place to reduce bullying and other behaviours that can cause mental distress.
- Mental Health Support Teams: the core proposals build on the success of the “schools and children and young people’s mental health services link pilot” and provide a very significant boost to services based around schools and colleges, that importantly need to be delivered in a coordinated way. At their heart is our commitment to make available £209 million to fund new collaboratively delivered Mental Health Support Teams, made up of additional trained staff, supervised by NHS specialists, to provide support in or near schools and colleges for children and young people with emerging and more moderate needs.
- Piloting a four-week wait standard: the Government also wants to continue to improve access to specialist services and will pilot a four-week waiting time standard for accessing children and young people’s mental health services.
The Green Paper also contains a number of other proposals to improve support for young people’s mental health, including work to support the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s work on keeping young people safe online, convening a new partnership to look at support for the mental health of 16-25 year olds, and commissioning further research in a number of areas to build our understanding of the evidence.
As much as half of all mental illness begins before the age of 14, so it is absolutely vital that children and young people get the support they need as soon as it is needed.
Thankfully, so much has changed in the way we think and talk about mental illness in recent years due to the inspirational work of extraordinary campaigners. But now we need real action, which is why I welcome the Government commitment to support young people with mental health issues. These measures will help many vulnerable young people and children in Fareham.
The Health Secretary, the Rt Hon Jeremey Hunt MP wrote in a letter to me:
‘Improving children and young people’s mental health provision is a priority for this Government, tackling a profound injustice that holds people back from achieving their true potential.
‘This drive is backed by unprecedented levels of funding to support real change and while much progress is already being made.’