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15th September, 2020 - DR LISA CAMERON MP QUESTIONS SECRETARY OF STATE MATT HANCOCK

On 15th September 2020 on the floor of the House of Commons, Dr Lisa Cameron MP served notice on Secretary of State Matt Hancock MP that a nation is waiting for him to get his act together and announce a Covid-19 Mental Health Recovery Strategy without delay: 

Dr Lisa Cameron (East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow) (SNP)

‘The Secretary of State will be aware of a recent survey which found that one third of children feel more anxious, sad and stressed now than before lockdown. The charity Action for Children has therefore asked the Government to prioritise children’s mental health in covid-19 recovery planning and provide adequate funding to meet this demand. Could he tell the House exactly what he has done about that and when we can expect him to announce a covid recovery mental health strategy?’ 

Matt Hancock

‘This is an incredibly important subject, and I commend the hon. Lady for raising it and for her work on it, along with many Members across the House. We are putting more funding into mental health and paediatric mental health in particular, to ensure that we tackle the inevitable consequences of the pandemic.’ 

Dr Cameron pointed to a new survey that has revealed sharply increased levels of anxiety and depression amongst children and young people and reminded the Secretary of State that the charity, Action for Children’ had asked the government to prioritise children’s mental health in its Covid Recovery Planning, providing sufficient funding to meet the demand.

In his reply, Matt Hancock acknowledged the severity of the problem but we are still waiting to hear anything from him in terms of a strategy to address what is fast becoming a national crisis.

Helen Clark: Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign said:

‘It is great that Dr Cameron has put Matt Hancock on the spot about the Government’s lack of a mental health strategy to help the children and young people and their families who have suffered damage to their mental health and wellbeing as a consequence of the pandemic.

Indeed, their troubles might only just be beginning as we confront the new spike in Covid-19 and could even be on the brink of Phase Two of this terrible virus.

Before that happens, it is essential that the Secretary of State and the government he represents listen to concerned parliamentarians like Dr Cameron, charities like ‘Action for Children’ and the many health and education professionals and individual families who are saying that the government must act now to avert a mental health outbreak that, like the virus, we struggle to control.

Rest assured, we will continue to ask the questions until the answers are an improvement upon the one given by the Secretary of State today. When can we expect the Secretary of State to announce his Covid Recovery Mental Health Strategy?

Anybody listening out there in Government?’

14th September, 2020 - A STRATEGY FOR CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH

On 21st July 2020, Dr Lisa Cameron MP tabled the following Question:

‘To ask the Secretary of State for Education, pursuant to the Answer of 21 July 2020 to Question 72965, on Schools: Mental Health, whether schools will be able to use the £650 million catch-up premium for pastoral support for young people.’ (77679)

On 7th September, 2020, Dr Cameron received an answer from the Minister for Children, Vicky Ford:

‘The £650 million ‘catch-up’ premium is to support schools to make up for lost teaching time. Our expectation is that this funding will be spent on the additional activities required to support children and young people to catch up after a period of disruption to their education.

To support settings to make best use of this funding, the Education Endowment foundation have published  a COVID-19 Support Guide for Schools with evidence-based approaches to funding in the most effective way, which is available here:

https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/covid-19-resources/national-tutoring-programme/covid-19-support-guide-for-schools/#nav-covid-19-support-guide-for-schools1.

The guide is clear that evidence-based interventions, including those focused on tackling pupils’ behaviour or social and emotional needs in order to support them with re-engaging with school, will support pupils to catch up as they return to school.

The Education Endowment Foundation have also published a further School Planning Guide for the new academic year, which is available here:

https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/covid-19-resources/guide-to-supporting-schools-planning/.’

Helen Clark, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign responded to the Question and Answer, saying:

‘The £650 million catch-up premium is clearly intended primarily to provide educational support; possibly involving buying in additional tutoring services to supply the knowledge shortfall that some students may have experienced during the prolonged absence from school.

This is an essential need and will cost money. The catch-up premium must be spent on what it was intended to facilitate – helping pupils to catch up and remedy the attainment gap occasioned by the Covid-19 driven school absence.

But £650 million of catch-up funding is not a magic money tree and will only stretch so far.

Quite apart from the fact that The Child Mental Health Charter Campaign contends that evidence gained from actual practice with children (practice-based evidence) is the best model for dealing with social and emotional problems; as opposed to methods derived from theoretical modelling (evidence-based practice) it is utterly unrealistic to expect the catch up fund to cover the entire gamut of children’s mental health needs as well as their educational requirements.

A distinct mental health strategy for children and young people is now imperative and with future Covid forecasts worsening by the day, there is no time to lose.

The Government must announce a strategy without delay.’

Helen Clark said that an announcement on mental health service provision for children and young people on their return to school should include:

  • The immediate release of emergency investment streams into existing mental health services such as CAMHS and also a distinct ‘School Mental Health Needs Returner’ fund 
  • A long-term strategy specifically focused upon the mental health outcomes of the Covid-19 crisis on children and young people
  • Specific funding proposals to help children and young people living in conditions of socioeconomic hardship, BAME, diverse and migrant communities
  • A clear commitment to put the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of the Government’s ongoing  Covid-19 Recovery Plan

2nd September, 2020 - CHILDREN RETURNING TO SCHOOL ARE ALREADY SHOWING ANXIETY DISORDERS

Children back at school are showing clear symptoms of distress. Yet the Government has failed to address the effects of the shut-down and teachers are  having to cope alone.

A report in ‘The Sunday Times,’ (‘Lockdown’s legacy: twitchy fingers in the classroom,’ 6th September 2020) revealed a marked increase in children exhibiting compulsive behaviour and anxiety symptoms due to the chaotic lifestyles that many have experienced. New behaviours include:

  • Fingers and thumbs twitching due to absence of computer gaming
  • Falling asleep at desks due to lack of regular bedtimes and 24 hour screen time
  • Lack of focus and inability to concentrate
  • Complete exhaustion at the end of the school day.

Last week, some schools abandoned formal teaching for part of the day and took the pupils outside for a run in an attempt to quell their anxiety and manifest compulsions. Steve Chalke, founder of Oasis Community Learning (which runs 52 primary and secondary schools) said: 

‘It is going to take a long time – up to a term – to get routines back into some of these children’s lives. They are way behind on ability to focus and concentrate. Their fingers are twitching for something else. Gaming and screen time is addictive.’

Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics said that teachers had: 

 ‘Quite a task on their hands.’

Helen Clark, Campaign Manger for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign added: 

‘This is clearly the tip of the iceberg. The Government has been adamant that children must return to school – and we agree with that – but they have issued a decree and then just left teachers to get on with it.

We cannot know the precise nature of the individual experiences that each child will bring to the classroom along with their school bags.   

What we do know is that many will not be in the best frame of mind to immediately slot into their former routines and patterns of study.

Gavin Williamson must state what National Plan he has to ensure that teachers, pupils and their families are properly supported and that there is expert help at hand to identify the children’s mental health needs. One size will not fit all. 

A detailed strategy must now be set in place to restore confidence   before problems become entrenched and the classroom becomes a melting pot of disruption rather than an oasis of calm study. 

 A distressed, anxious child cannot work and learn and will prevent others from working and learning. 

A strategy must be announced without delay.

Only today, Robert Halfon MP; Chair of the Education Select Committee has called on BBC Radio for a large increase in mental health specialists and counsellors in schools. 

The ball is now firmly in the court of Gavin Williamson; Secretary of State for Education.

What exactly does he propose to do about it?’

2nd September, 2020 - THIS IS WHAT THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT IS DOING ON MENTAL HEALTH ---- YESTERDAY THE UK GOVERNMENT SAID…..NOTHING

Helen Clark; Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign has asked readers of this site to write to their MP to demand that the UK government  sets out a strategy for children’s mental health as of urgency after Boris Johnson and two Cabinet Ministers ignored the issue when MPs returned to Westminster.

After the Summer Recess, the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament went ‘back to business’.

During the course of her address to the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon included the passage below on her plans for Mental Health in the new session:

‘A central commitment in last year’s programme for government was major reform and expansion of mental health services. This year’s programme continues that journey. Again, we will build on the approaches that were adopted during the pandemic. During lockdown, the reach of the distress brief intervention programme was expanded.

That provides support for people in distress who contact emergency services but who do not need emergency clinical help. Evaluations have shown that such an approach saves lives. I can therefore confirm that we will expand the distress brief interventions programme across every part of Scotland.

We will also work with health boards to retain the mental health assessment centres that were established during the pandemic, and we will deliver the major expansion of mental health support for children and young people that was announced in last year’s programme for government.’

Yesterday, Prime Minster, Boris Johnson gave a televised address to the Cabinet. Secretary of State for Education, Gavin Williamson addressed the House of Commons as did Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.

Children’s mental health was not mentioned at all.

Helen Clark said:

‘Nicola Sturgeon has not got ‘the answer’ – but at least she is trying to find it! The UK government by contrast is behaving like an ostrich and refusing to even acknowledge the problem.

I am calling upon readers to write to their MPs and demand that a strategy is issued without delay. Silence on this issue is not ‘golden’ - it is a total and utter disgrace.’

1st September, 2020 - CHILDREN’S SOCIETY PREDICTS CRISIS AS SCHOOLS OPEN

The Children’s Society and Labour Opposition Leader Sir Keir Starmer MP have predicted a severe service crisis as children return to school accompanied by a multiplicity of difficulties stemming from the pandemic and consequent lockdown.

Teachers are in the front line; expected to detect victims of neglect and abuse and refer them to the appropriate services. Health and social services will be at breaking point but  Shadow Justice Secretary David Lammy MP and Shadow Attorney General, Lord Falconer have joined  Shadow Children’s Minister, Tulip Siddique  in requiring also that Ministers :

‘Urgently outline the Government plan for handling the increase in family breakdown cases, which could overwhelm the family courts as children begin returning to school.’ (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/sep/01/warning-rise-child-protection-referrals-english-schools-reopen)  

Policy Manager for The Children’s Society, Iryna Pona added that the six month school shut-down has concealed many vulnerable children from view with an expected upsurge in problems now expected to place family courts and social care services at breaking point:

‘It is absolutely vital that these services are given the guidance and resources they need to manage the demand and ensure that vulnerable children are protected from harm.’

Sir Keir Starmer asked the Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson to make a statement to MPs about how he proposed to:

Make up for the damage already done…and mitigate the ongoing risk from the pandemic.’

Gavin Williamson thanked teachers for their work but gave no policy announcements.

Helen Clark, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign said:

‘It makes no sense that teachers should be opening school doors for  the first time in six months equipped with barely a wing and a prayer to help them deal with  the multiplicity of problems that their pupils will bring with them.

Quite apart from the time that will necessarily be taken in referring children to other services, how can teachers be expected to provide an accurate diagnosis of the difficulties each child is experiencing? They were trained as teachers, not expert mental health professionals!   Wrong diagnoses and inaccurate referrals will compound the chaos and we will soon be faced with a situation that is unsafe for all concerned.

The Secretary of State for Education must now tell us how he proposes to deal with this crisis.

What is the plan?

What resources will be provided?

What help will be provided for parent and carers?

What in short is the Government’s strategy?'

19th August, 2020 - CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH INITIATIVES IN SCOTLAND

On July 20th 2020, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign, Helen Clark wrote to Clare Haughey MSP: Minister for Mental Health in the Scottish Government to enquire what actions the Scottish Government are taking to support the mental health needs of children.

On 19th August, 2020, Sophie Avery, who is responsible for Children and Young People’s Mental Health Improvement at the Scottish Government Directorate for Mental Health replied on the behalf of the Minister.

The main points are as follows:

  • The Scottish Government funded ‘Young Scot’ to create an information and signposting resource called “Aye Feel”. This is accessed at https://young.scot/campaigns/national/aye-feel and is a live resource capable of regular update based on what children and young people have said that they need and created in partnership with them. The plentiful links and help sources (which are age-related and appropriate) offer choice and are available on social media platforms 
  • During the pandemic (and especially lockdown) screen and social media sources have been appropriated by some people to target children for purposes of abuse. The Scottish Youth and Children’s Parliament have launched a digital resource called ‘Mind Yer Time’ to teach children about safe and healthy use of screens and social media.
  • In March 2020, the Scottish Government allocated £2 million of new funding to Local Authorities to specifically support the planning and development of new community and wellbeing services for 5-25 year olds.  This was supplemented by a supporting ‘Framework’ stating  that ‘each community planning or children’s services partnership should identify and demonstrate clearly any particular local need or priority that should be addressed by community support. Partnerships should actively engage with under-represented and ‘at risk groups including communities who may often find themselves excluded.’
  • The Scottish Government is working with Local Authorities to ensure that these greatly needed services are fit for purpose in their role of supporting children and their families as soon as possible. The aim is for local partnership services to be in place by the end of 2020.

Helen Clark said: 

‘These resources are pro-active; age-appropriate and specifically designed a) to deal with the unique situation impacting children’s mental health occasioned or  intensified by the pandemic  and b) to create resilient, long-term structures.

I am impressed that the resources have been designed in partnership with children and young people and differentiate between need, age group and circumstance. It’s encouraging too that groups known to be traditionally excluded or ‘at risk’ are at the forefront of the plans  and that local partnerships are seen as key to the establishment of services that not only work but are seen to work for entire communities. 

I am grateful to Dr Lisa Cameron MP for suggesting that I make contact with the Scottish Minister for Mental Health, Clare Haughey.

How disappointing it is that in comparison with this engaged and engaging strategy, the UK Government has signally failed to step up. 

Child Mental Health Charter supporters both at Westminster and elsewhere have continued to ask Boris Johnson’s Government to provide a clear plan for children’s mental health needs; in preparation for the wide-scale return of children to school in less than two weeks’ time.

It is simply not credible to expect schools to cope with the intensified and radically exacerbated mental health needs of  children with no new resources or help except for the carrot of a general ‘disability fund’ and a ‘rag bag’ of online ‘teach it yourself’ guides to mental health on the school computer. 

The Child Mental Health Charter Campaign now calls upon the Government to make a detailed statement about exactly how they propose to provide for children’s mental health needs at school, in the community and in the health services and how such provision will be funded.

At the same time, we renew our call to Boris Johnson to keep his 19th December 2020 Queen’s Speech promise to bring in a new Mental Health Bill during the course of this parliament. 

AND CHILDREN’S NEEDS MUST BE ON THE FACE OF THAT BILL.’

11th August, 2020 - MINISTER COMMITS TO PUBLISH WHITE PAPER TO ‘PAVE THE WAY’ FOR A REFORM OF THE ORIGINAL 1983 MENTAL HEALTH ACT.

BUT WHEN? 

AND WHERE IS THE MENTION OF CHILDREN?

The Child Mental Health Charter Campaign is grateful to Labour MP Dan Carden for tabling a Question to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care on our behalf. 

Mr Carden asked:

‘If he will confirm that it is the Government’s intention to introduce a Bill to reform the 1989 Mental Health Act during the course of this parliament as stated in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech and that the urgent needs of children will be on the face of the Bill.’ 

The Question was answered by the Minister with responsibility for Mental Health, Nadine Dorries who replied:

‘We have committed to publishing a White Paper which will set out the Government’s response to Sir Simon Wessely’s Independent Review of the Mental Health Act 1983 and pave the way for reform of the Act. We will publish our White Paper as soon as it is possible to do so. We will consult publicly on our proposals and will bring forward a Bill to amend the Act when parliamentary time allows.’ 

Child Mental Health Campaign Manager Helen Clark said:

‘What is good is that Ms Dorries has confirmed that there will be a White Paper (three years after the 2017 Green Paper) and that it remains the Government’s intention to reform the Mental Health Act. 

However, she has not confirmed that the Government intends to keep its promise by introducing a Bill during the course of this parliament and does not mention children. I have therefore asked Mr Carden to table a ‘follow-up’ Question:

‘To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care if he will confirm that the urgent needs of children will be at the heart of the proposed reform of the Mental Health Act and thus the subject of statutory rather than voluntary provision and that it is his intention to follow the White Paper with a Bill during the course of this parliament.’ 

I await his response with interest. As there has been a dramatic escalation in the mental health problems of children as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic and associated lockdown there is no time to waste. The Government must clarify its intentions without delay.’

20th July, 2020 - IMPACT OF SUMMER CAMP CANCELLATION ON CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH

The latest threat to children’s mental health and wellbeing is the mass cancellation of summer camps according to worried parents who had previously relied on the facility during the traditional summer holiday period https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/19/parents-worried-by-lack-of-uk-summer-camp-options-due-to-covid-19-guidelines .

Parents who spoke out include a scientist currently working on solutions to the virus who said:

‘I will be continuing the impossible task of managing the emotional and developmental needs of my son while working 50-hour weeks on the development of medical devices to help with Covid…I feel very let down by the government failing to provide an outlet for isolated and increasingly distressed children.’

Parents and summer camp organisers have pointed to the anomaly of pubs and restaurants returning to service while holiday camps and clubs remain shut with some parents resorting to sending their children abroad to take advantage of residential holiday camp opportunities.

Helen Clark; Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign added:

‘This is just  the latest stressful situation for parents who can see their children’s mental health and wellbeing deteriorating day by day with as yet, nothing like a recovery strategy announced by the Government.

A generation of children has in effect been simply remaindered by their own Government.

Children may not be first in line for catching Covid-19 – but they are fast becoming the biggest casualty of this pandemic.’ 

19th July, 2020 - SERVICES WILL BE ‘DELUGED’ BY MENTAL HEALTH REFERRALS WHEN SCHOOL DOORS OPEN IN SEPTEMBER EXPERTS PREDICT

Teachers and health service providers have predicted a huge crisis in children’s mental health needs when schools re-open in September (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jul/19/therapists-and-teachers-warn-of-looming-mental-health-crisis).

Ieso Digital Health puts the sharp rise down to the cancellation or suspension of face-to-face therapies during lockdown and suspension of NHS referrals and services. The NHS’s Improving Access Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme of face-to-face counselling estimates that by September, 470,000 fewer people will have been referred since before lockdown. When IAPT resumes in October it will be facing a fourfold increase in workload.

Research from the Chartered College of Teaching has found that fewer than 5% of teachers feel confident about supporting traumatised and vulnerable children when schools re-open. A ‘mental health crisis’ is expected and some of the possible problems that teachers feel ill-equipped to deal with include:

    • Anxiety
    • Bereavement depression
    • Trauma occasioned by living in poverty and in hunger crisis
    • Damage to wellbeing due to isolation, separation from friends and routines
    • Experience of /proximity to abuse, suicide, domestic violence.

Alison Peacock, Chief Executive of the Charted College of Teaching said that ‘the anxiety about pupils’ learning and wellbeing is deeply concerning.’

Helen Clark, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign called upon the Prime Minister to pre-empt disaster by announcing a strategy to protect the mental health and wellbeing of pupils and ensure that their teachers are properly equipped to help them

‘An immediate ‘fire fighting’ plan’ is needed with funds to match,’ she said,  ‘and the Prime Minister should make an announcement next week, before the House rises for summer recess.

But the enduring problem will not be solved until he keeps his promise to reform the 1989 Mental Health Act during the course of this parliament. Mr Johnson must announce a timetable for that before the parliamentary summer recess and also confirm that the urgent needs of children will be at the heart of the new statutory measures proposed.  The countdown begins NOW.’

6th April, 2020 - Starmer Upgrades Mental Health Role to Shadow Cabinet Post - In Its Own Right.  Helen Clark Writes.

Helen Clark, Lead Author for the APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood has warmly welcomed the appointment of Rosena Allin Khan as Shadow Minister for Mental Health in Labour Leader Keir Starmer’s new Shadow Cabinet. 

The APPG on A Fit and Healthy Childhood has published three widely reviewed Reports on the mental health of children and the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign arose from this 

Helen Clark, who is also Spokesperson for the Charter Campaign, said: 

‘This appointment marks an historic landmark in the way that mental health – and in particular, children’s mental health – is regarded in public life. For the very first time, the Labour Party has made the post of Mental Health Minister a full Shadow Cabinet post instead of being a junior front bench role. Our APPG and the Charter Campaign have argued that we are facing a most severe crisis in in children’s mental health problems and we have demanded that the forthcoming amendments to the 1983 Mental Health Act (as announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the December 2019 Queen’s Speech) MUST include the urgent needs of children at the heart of the new legislation. This is the very first time that the role of Mental Health Minister has been given Shadow Cabinet status by any political party. It indicates indeed that the Labour Party, Her Majesty’s Official Opposition under the new leadership of Keir Starmer, is giving this issue the utmost importance. I would like to congratulate Rosena in particular at this time. She has kindly addressed our APPG in the past and I am looking forward to meeting her in her new role once the lockdown is over. Meanwhile, it is wonderful that the MP who has returned selflessly to the frontline as an A&E doctor at this time of national emergency will drive the Official Opposition’s policy on children’s mental health. They will be in safe hands with Dr Khan.’

4th March 2020 - ‘THE STATE OF CHILD HEALTH’ Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health

This comprehensive overall survey into child health was published on 4th March 2020. The summary (below) of mental health findings based on the Mental Health of Children and Young People Survey is applicable to England; the other countries were only able to supply information relating to ‘wellbeing.’

Prevalence of mental health conditions https://stateofchildhealth.rcpch.ac.uk/evidence/mental-health/prevalence

All types of mental health conditions are increasing in England.

    • Half of mental health conditions in adults start before age 14
    • From 1999-2017, prevalence of all mental health disorders among children aged 5-15 rose by 1.5% : from 9.7% - 11.2%
    • Mental health disorders were more common and rose more significantly in older children. Prevalence was 13.6% of children aged 11-15 compared with 9.5% aged 5-10 in 2017
    • The sharpest prevalence rise for children aged 5-15 has been within emotional disorders (including anxiety, depression, OCD, phobias) increasing from 4.3% to 5.8% from 1999-2017. More girls suffered from emotional disorders in 2017 (6.1% compared to 5.6%in boys) although the increasing trend is seen for both genders
    • Prevalence of behavioural disorders and hyperactivity disorders in children aged 5-15 have remained largely stable. Behavioural disorders are more common in boys than girls, 7.1% compared to 3.9% in 2017.

What do children say?

    • ‘Mental health’ means feeling happy, confident and stress-free wherever we are
    • More needs to be done to make us feel as open and safe as possible
    • We don’t want our lives to be marked by this one thing
    • Not many people are supporting us
    • We need help now because this will help our future

Policy recommendations 

RCPCH saw a need for increased data collection on the prevalence of mental health problems in children; this would include routine data collection across the UK to better understand the level of need for mental health services.

Recent research on the quality of care for children admitted to hospital for mental health problems concluded that there are huge variations in quality, definitions and accessibility of national data relating to mental health. Children not being seen within a dedicated mental health service are not recorded and are essentially ‘missing’ from the data. 

England

    • The 2017 Mental Health of Children and Young People in England Survey is welcome. NHS Digital should conduct the survey every three years to improve data collection on children’s mental health, enabling greater recognition of need levels.

Scotland 

    • Scottish Government should introduce and fully fund criteria-free, community-based therapies for all children as well as family therapy to address all levels of mental health needs
    • Local Authorities should provide local pathways, determined by multi-agencies which improve access to support, resources and mental health services
    • Scottish Government should collect data on the prevalence of mental health conditions in children and report this at a minimum of every three years.

Wales 

    • Welsh Government should continue to fund ‘Time to Change Wales’ which provides a national campaign to reduce stigma of mental health problems (delivered by Mind Cymru and Hafal)
    • Welsh Government should collect data on prevalence of mental health conditions in children and report this at a minimum of every three years.

Northern Ireland 

    • Northern Ireland should improve data collection on children’s mental health. We welcome the transformation funding which was allocated to the HSC Board to conduct a prevalence study which is currently underway and due to complete in 2020. This should be repeated at a minimum of every three years.

What can health professionals do? 

    • Health professionals must be alert to signs/symptoms of mental ill health in order to signpost or refer on to appropriate services for support and treatment in a timely manner. This includes being aware of the biopsychosocial model of disease and a recognition that psychological problems often manifest with physical symptoms
    • Mental health training for health professionals must be improved. It should be a core part of the training curriculum for all health professionals who deal with children. A useful resource is the e-learning provided through the MindEd resource which helps professionals to identify and help children with mental heath issues. There are modules for families to which professionals may wish to signpost carers.
    • There must be greater advocacy for the mental health of children. Available data on mental health prevalence should be used to advocate for adequate provision of mental health services to local decision-makers (from NHS commissioners to social care, education and local government)
    • Integrated working between organisations and agencies across the. workforce is to be encouraged. The integration of practice, education, pathways and commissioning will ensure that prevention, recognition, early intervention, support and onward referral is commonly addressed by professionals.

The President of the RCPCH, Professor Russell Viner said: 

‘It’s not a pretty sight. On many vital measures, we risk lagging behind other European countries. We’re in danger of failing a generation if we don’t turn this round. The government has made welcome commitments on…mental health but we need to see delivery in this and other areas.’

Separate figures from Childline revealed that in 2018-19, 653 children under eleven contacted its freephone number with suicidal thought and feelings, an increase of 87% since 2015-16. 

Founder Esther Rantzen said:

‘Over the last 10 years, we have seen a rise in the number of children describing feelings of such intense unhappiness that they tell Childline they want to end their own lives. It is deeply disturbing that we have reached a point where on average, 67 children a day are receiving help for suicidal thoughts and feelings.’ 

16th July, 2020 - IS JOHNSON TEARING UP  PROMISE TO REFORM THE 1989 MENTAL HEALTH ACT?

Campaigners desperate for a new Mental Health Act during the course of this Parliament may have their hopes dashed after Prime Minister’s Questions on 15th July. 

And that’s because of THIS exchange between Boris Johnson and new Conservative MP for Broxtowe, Darren Henry:

Darren Henry (Broxtowe) (Con)

‘After such a difficult few months for everyone, people with mental health conditions are especially suffering from increased anxiety, the effects of isolation, months without treatment and, most importantly, a lack of early intervention. Will the Prime Minister outline what steps the Government will take to make sure that people with mental health conditions are not left alone or behind?’

The Prime Minister

‘I thank my hon. Friend for campaigning on this issue, which is, of course, incredibly important, and has been particularly so during lockdown. Overall, we have massively increased our funding for mental health care to £12.5 billion, but we are also, as he knows, now publishing our national strategy for disabled people, which will cover all types of disability, including physical and mental health.’

Child Mental Health Charter Campaign Manager Helen Clark said:

‘In the December 2019 Queen’s Speech, Boris Johnson announced that his Government would be introducing a new Bill to reform the 1989 Mental Health Act during the course of this parliament.

Yesterday, in reply to Mr Henry, he had the ideal opportunity to announce a date for the Bill to begin its progress in the House; thus ‘at a stroke’ giving hope and comfort to a huge number of people.

HE DIDN’T

Instead, Me Johnson:

    • Fobbed Mr Henry off with waffle about yet another ‘National Strategy’, dumping mental health under a general umbrella of ‘disability’
    • Yet again, made absolutely NO mention of the urgent needs of children
    • Gave no timetable for any of it
    • Studiously swerved all reference to legislation

Mr Henry (who at least mentioned mental health) deserved a better answer – and so did everybody who knows that the 1989 Act is way past its sell-by date

People expect politicians to keep their promises.

Please write to your MP and ask them to tell Boris Johnson to keep his promise and set a date for the introduction of a Bill to reform the 1989 Mental Health Act .

There is no time to lose! MPs break up for summer Recess on 22nd July.

Give them something to think about on holiday – and to campaign for when Parliament returns after recess.

WRITE THAT LETTER TODAY

15th July, 2020 - CHILD SUICIDES MAY HAVE INCREASED DURING LOCKDOWN

New research from the National Child Mortality Database suggests that child suicides may have increased during the Covid-19 lockdown (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/coronavirus-uk-child-suicide-mental-health-nhs-a9617671.html) .

Potential factors are isolation, tensions within the home, school closures and disruption to care services.  In 48% of the cases, Covid-19 –related issues or social restriction due to lockdown were thought to be contributory factors.

36% of the children had been in contact previously with social care or mental health services and 24% already possessed a diagnosis of hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder (ADHD) and autism.

Ellen Townsend, Professor of Psychology at the University of Nottingham said:

‘I m worried that those who are already vulnerable will be struggling even more. The good news is that talking therapies really help.’

Helen Clark, Campaign Manager for the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign said that the new findings were a frightening illustration of the very urgent need to ensure that children’s mental health and essential services to help them were treated as ‘an absolute top priority’ by the Government. Referring to new EDM 685 tabled by Dr Lisa Cameron MP in the House of Commons she said:

‘Obviously we cannot draw definitive conclusions from one snapshot survey, circumscribed by time limits, but as it stands, these new findings are a frightening indication of what may be to come.

Even before the pandemic, children’s mental health services were in a parlous state; subject to endless warm words, ‘pilot’ or ‘trailblazer’ schemes – or whatever the Government chooses to call lip-serving warm-word substitutes for radical legislation that would,  for the very first time, recognise that children’s mental health services are in crisis – that their mental health needs are not going to vanish (and have in fact been severely worsened as a consequence of the pandemic) and that what is needed is legislation; funding that is fair and not post-coded and real support for children, their families and the professionals who are doing their very best to help them – on a shoestring.

I urge everyone now to contact their MP as of urgency and ask them to sign this excellent EDM, telling the Prime Minster to deliver on his promise to reform the 1989 Mental Health Act and to ensure that the needs of children are at its heart.

What we are seeing now represents  the very tip of the iceberg.

Please contact your MP NOW – and maybe save the life of a child.’

6th February 2020 - CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH WEEK DEBATE

HOUSE OF COMMONS: 

The debate was held by Shadow Minister (International Development) Preet Gill MP and the Government reply was given by Nadine Dorries, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Health and Social Care.

Other MPs contributing were:

Julian Lewis (Con) Jim Shannon (Shadow DUP Spokesperson, Human Rights, Shadow DUP Spokesperson, Health) Lyn Brown (Lab: Shadow Minister, Treasury) Lisa Cameron (Shadow SNP Spokesperson, Mental Health).

The full debate can be accessed at:

https://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates//?id=2020-02-06a.551.0

Preet Gill MP wrote an article previewing the debate on Politics Home. Her main points were: 

  • More transparency is needed about the level of investment that the Government will be putting into tackling mental ill health through the health service
  • Recent NHS data has identified that one in eight 5-19 year olds have a mental health difficulty; the proportion has risen slightly over recent years
  • Children’s Mental Health Services require proper resourcing. 33% of children  (and young people) referred in 2018/19 were still on waiting lists at the end of that year
  • We need to address the huge shortages of mental health professionals
  • In the last two years alone, there has been an increase of 238,000 patient ‘interactions’ with mental health services, yet the mental health workforce has barely increased
  • A recent survey by the BMA found that almost two thirds of nurses said that on their last shift there was a shortage of one or more nursing staff
  • Investment and political will must be directed to the provision of preventative and early intervention services
  • 60% of local authority areas have seen a real-terms fall in spending on mental health services for children who come under the ‘low-level’ bracket
  • If we do not support children at the very earliest stage, we will feel the impact later down the line when the emergency services are forced to step in
  • In Edgbaston alone in 2019, 90% of schools saw an increase in staff and students suffering from mental health problems
  • The children of parents who are recipient of low-income benefits are almost twice as likely to have a diagnosable mental health condition 

In Nadine Dorries’ response to Preet Gill and other MPs, she referred in some detail to trailblazing schemes roll-out and also said that:

‘The Prime Minister has announced his absolute commitment to mental health.’

Preet Gill in her speech called for:

‘A children’s wellbeing commissioner, or similar, with real teeth, powers and resources to work across Departments.’

There was no mention made of whether or not the forthcoming reform of the 1983 Mental Health Act will place the needs of children firmly at the heart of the legislation.

This above is, and must remain, our campaigning imperative.

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3rd-6th February 2020: CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH WEEK

This is an extremely important week for everyone who wishes to ensure that children’s mental health comes to the very forefront of policy making. 

Today, the Local Government Association (LGA) has issued its own briefing to mark the event including the key points below:

  • Improving and maintaining good mental health is a key priority for councils. This is particularly important for children
  • Through their children, family and public health responsibilities, councils are giving children high quality mental health support and would like to do MORE but are currently having to CUT vital early intervention work. Proper funding is vital
  • Early intervention and prevention support work is essential for children. The LGA has published commissioned research into what is already being achieved through good local partnership working as well as putting the child and family at the heart of services https://www.local.gov.uk/supporting-good-mental-health 
  • The Government should strengthen the governance over how funding on children’s mental health services is spent and recognise the expertise of health and wellbeing boards locally
  • Prevention and early intervention should be prioritised and funding provided to councils to allow them to work with schools to commission independent school-based counselling 

It is good to know that the LGA is highlighting Children’s Mental Health Week. If YOUR local authority is also promoting it in any way, please let us know! 

And please ask THEM to sign up as local authority to support our own Child Mental Health Charter by accessing www.childmentalhealthcharter.com 

Thanks you!!

29th January 2020 - MPs urge Government to put children's needs at the heart of new mental health legislation - by Katy Morton

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,' she said. 

‘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?’

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.'

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.

  • To view the EDM click here

21st January 2020 - Today, Holly Lynch, MP for Halifax and a tremendous supporter of the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign, has tabled  new Early Day Motion 73:  ‘A Mental Health Act Prioritising Children’ in the House of Commons. This crucial Motion will be the main campaigning tool in the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign’s  strategy as we aim to ensure that the Government’s proposed historic reform of 1983 Mental Health Act has the needs of children firmly at its heart. 

We hope that everyone will champion the excellent and essential contents of this Motion and encourage all local organisations and individuals to get behind it. A new Mental Health Act with the needs of children as a top priority will change lives. Join the campaign now! For further information about how YOU  you can help,  contact Campaign  Spokesperson  Helen Clark on helenrclark@ntlworld.com

2nd January 2020 - MAKING 2020 A MILESTONE FOR CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH

Happy New Year to everyone who has given their professional expertise to support the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign!

In eight non-stop months, campaigners and Registrants have put the urgent crisis in children’s mental health on the national map; winning support from politicians on a cross-party basis and engaging with   successive Government Ministers to press the case.

2019 ended with a hard-won achievement: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his intention in the Queen’s Speech to reform the out-dated 1983 Mental Health Act.

The significance of this should not be underestimated.

Brexit had dominated the parliamentary landscape for three years and it took unceasing effort on behalf of many organisations to put mental health on the Johnson Government’s radar.

The Child Mental Health Charter Campaign Team is immensely proud to have played a major part in securing that achievement and is profoundly grateful to everyone who helped us in achieving that aim.

But there is EVEN MORE WORK FOR CAMPAIGNERS TO DO in 2020!

The Prime Minister made NO mention of the urgent mental health needs of children and unless these are central to a reformed Mental Health Act, a lot of time and money will have been spent on a negligible outcome.

A survey published today by the mental health charity Stem4 includes the shocking findings that: 

  • Four in ten GPs currently advise parents/carers of children with mental health problems to pay for private care because NHS services cannot cope with the demand
  • Failure to ‘go private’ could result in a wait for NHS services of up to 18 months
  • The NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is now refusing to accept some referrals and one GP says that it is actually easier to see the pope than a psychiatrist!
  • An emergent ‘two-tier’ system excludes children from economically disadvantaged families from care; thus exacerbating existing inequalities and furthering societal division
  • Parents thrown back on private care are given no guidance about which service or professional to ‘purchase’ and the private sector cannot always provide the meticulous, directed specialist assessment and intervention required by children with complex mental health needs
  • Children who are accepted for treatment by CAMHS face a wait of between three and six months (27%) and up to a year (28%)
  • GPs attempting to help children who have been refused by CAMHS are forced to turn to schools (many of which have facilities that are seriously inadequate) and charities (the majority already overburdened)
  • 73% of people think that NHS mental health services for children have declined/deteriorated over the past year, despite some additional funding and governmental pledges about future initiatives
  • A poll of 1,000 parents found that 76% were worried about their child’s mental health; 72% feared that their child might come to harm and 56% considered that they themselves would be ill-equipped to deal with a child’s difficulties

In addition, speaking today on BBC4’s ‘Woman’s’ Hour’, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield stressed that it was vital to prioritise early intervention measures in the field of child mental health before incipient problems escalated and became increasingly difficult to address.

The Child Mental Health Charter Team’s New Year resolution is to achieve the inclusion of children’s mental health needs at the heart of a reformed Metal Health Act; underpinned by the Six Principles in our Charter.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

We are starting 2020 by asking all Registrants to meet their local MP and encourage them to support our MP Charter Pledge, accessed at www.childmentalhealthcharter.com . MPs return to the House of Commons on Monday, January 7th and their constituency offices will be open from that date also.

Please do tell us how you get on by contacting Helen Clark (Campaign Spokesperson) on helenrclark@ntlworld.com  who can also try to help with any information that you think you will need.

YOUR DEDICATION AND ENTHUSIASM REALLY CAN CHANGE CHILDREN’S LIVES AND GIVE THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES A FUTURE TO ENJOY AS WE BEGIN 2020. 

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