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News 2020

29/01/2020 – MPs urge Government to put children’s needs at the heart of new mental health legislation – Katy Morton writes

A Labour MP has tabled a motion calling for children’s needs be made a focus of any reforms to the Mental Health Act, which were promised in the Queen’s Speech last month.

Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax, has launched the Early Day Motion, calling for children’s needs to be put at the centre of any changes to the Mental Health Act

Tabled by Holly Lynch MP, the Early Day Motion (EDM) calls for the Government to guarantee that new mental health legislation will focus on children’s needs and the needs of their parents and carers, as well as putting in place a properly qualified workforce to deliver services.

It goes on to ask for a guarantee to bring forward such legislative proposals at the earliest possible opportunity.

The Government commissioned an Independent Review of the 1983 Mental Health Act in 2017, and it reported in December 2018. The Queen’s Speech included a Commitment to publish a White Paper early this year, setting out the Government’s response in full, and paving the way for a bill to amend the Act.

The EDM, which has so far received the support of 13 cross-party MPS, was launched by Holly Lynch, Labour MP for Halifax, a supporter of the Child Mental Health Charter, which was published last year by Play Therapy UK, a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on a Fit and Healthy Childhood.

The aim of the charter is to convince the Government to introduce new legislation to support children and young people with mental health problems.

Headteacher Dani Worthington from Moorside Community Primary School in Ovenden, a school based in Holly Lynch’s constituency, spoke at the launch of the charter last year.

Each year I see an increased number of children in  school displaying symptoms of mental health issues which manifest themselves in many different ways and sadly I also see that the children are getting younger and younger.

The current system we have in place does not work we are seeing children sat on waiting lists for years and years waiting to access the correct mental health support and diagnosis – these children need help and they need it now.

I am not a mental health worker I am trained to educate children and therefore we have to be careful about how much expectation we place on school staff. There are resources available to schools to support children, there are many staff being trained as mental health first aiders who are trained to spot the symptoms, which is all welcomed and valuable but what happens when the mental health first aiders identify a concern – have we got the appropriately trained professionals in place to work and support these children?

Dani Worthington, Moorside Community Primary School, Ovenden

Helen Clark, spokesperson for the Child Mental Health Charter campaign, said:

The fact that Holly Lynch has tabled this essential Early Day Motion is great news for everyone who feels that a major opportunity will be lost unless the reform of the Mental Health Act contains the urgent needs of children at its heart.

‘I’m especially grateful that it is Holly who has put down the motion because she knows only too well from the experience of professionals like Dani Worthington from Mornington School how much such a reform will be welcomed by parents and carers of children today.

Helen Clark, Spokesperson for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign

Ms Clark added, ‘Mental health problems do not just “spring up” when people are in their teens. Unless the Prime Minister listens to the many families and professionals who support the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign whole generations of children will be badly disadvantaged.

‘I hope that all Nursery World readers will encourage their own MPs to sign this Motion and make it something that they are proud to campaign on in Westminster.’

She went on to thank the ‘inspirational’ Monika Jephcott and Jeff Thomas (respectively chief executive and clinical director and registrar and director) of Play Therapy UK, who she said were ‘unceasing drivers’ of the Child Mental Health Charter.