Green Paper on Child Mental Health is unambitious and ignores hundreds of thousands of children, say Committees
Trailblazer Pilot schemes
The Committees are worried that the long timeframes involved in the Government's strategy will leave hundreds of thousands of children and young people unable to benefit from the proposals. The Government is 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 a fifth to a quarter of the country by 2022/23.
Chair of the Health and Social Care Committee, Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, says
"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. 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."
Chair of the Education Committee, Rob Halfon MP, says,
"The Government must back up its warm words by taking urgent action to address the mental health issues which children and young people face today. This strategy does not go far enough, which raises the very real prospect of hundreds of thousands of children missing out on the getting the help they so desperately need. We heard of the strong links between social disadvantage and mental health issues. If the Government is serious about tackling injustices in our society, it must ensure proper targeted funding of support for those most in need. Ministers should also recognise the separate support needs of apprentices and FE students. Social media is an increasing part of young people’s lives. Given both the negative and positive impacts it can have on young people’s mental health, social media education should be made a compulsory part of PHSE in all schools."
Strain on schools and colleges
Both health and education services are under great strain with significantly stretched resources, and workforce recruitment and retention concerns. Half of school leaders appear to have cut back on their mental health support services.
The Green Paper wants schools and colleges to deliver the ‘Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health’ role from within their own ranks. But this will only make worse the pressures of the existing high-accountability system, combined with a stretched teaching workforce. Staff need support within their school or college to ensure that their role is balanced with their normal duties. The Government must ensure that the existing CAMHS workforce is not overburdened by the demands of the Green Paper.
In a discussion forum held with young people, participants told the Committees that high-stakes exams have adverse effects on their mental health and well-being. The Government needs to gather independent evidence concerning the impact of exam pressure on young people.
In addition, the Committee heard, in formal evidence, that young people excluded from school seem much more likely to have social, emotional and mental health needs, yet the Green Paper does not address this issue. The Government must focus on the increase in pupils being excluded with mental health needs and how the mental health needs of excluded pupils are being met.
Transferring to adult care
Young people are also falling through the gaps and not receiving the services they need as they enter adulthood. At age 18, young people transition to adult mental health services. But a far more appropriate age appears to be 25. Indeed it seems that a third of 18 year olds drop out of mental health support rather than transfer to adult services. The Government must commit to a full assessment of the current transition arrangements between child and adult mental health services. In addition there needs to be a distinct and separate set of proposals for looked after children accessing mental health services.