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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

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. 


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.’ 



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:

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.

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 
  • 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 

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


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.


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 are starting 2020 by asking all Registrants to meet their local MP and encourage them to support our MP Charter Pledge, accessed at . 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  who can also try to help with any information that you think you will need.


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