This May, the Commons health and social care and education select committees made their thoughts known on the Government's proposals to make in-roads into the growing mental health crisis affected young people. The plans, in the form of a green paper, propose a scheme for young people to access mental health support in schools, with a maximum waiting time of four weeks. The two committees in their scathing assessment dubbed the Government plans unambitious and inadequate, stating they would take too long to lead to change, and were flawed in their reliance on already overstretched teachers.
The plans, far from bringing in wholesale changes across the country, will apparently only benefit up to a quarter of the country by 2022-23; if true, the proposals are hardly an urgent and serious response to such a major health epidemic affecting our next generation, and our most vulnerable.
The Conservative chair of the committee, Rob Halfon, was robust in his views, stating “This strategy does not go far enough, which raises the very real prospect of hundreds of thousands of children missing out on getting the help they so desperately need”. He went on to say “The suggested speed of delivery will leave hundreds of thousands of children with no improvements in provision for several years and with possibly worsened provision if staff leave to join trailblazer areas elsewhere”.
Lack of mental health support for children
When it comes to improving the psychological well-being of the youngest in our population, there is little doubt that access to mental health services for children is wholly inadequate. And the scale of the problem is considerable; one in ten children between five and 16 have been diagnosed with a mental health problem (this is considered to be underestimated). For those children who need access to CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services), not only are the waiting times high, the distance required to access their services are excessive (22km in 2014 on average, compared with 10km for 70% of patients accessing physical health care).
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) published a report in October 2017 which laid bare the scale of the work needed to put in place the type of child mental health services the country needs. The obstacles they found included:
- Pressure on, and often reduction in, funding at periods of greater demand - across social care, health and education
- Wide geographical variation in the extent to which local areas have an adequate range of provision and accessible, high-quality services; in particular, many areas have seen a reduction in the availability of local authority services
- Too few staff with the required skills and training
- Services planned, commissioned, delivered and regulated across multiple different
- Organisations, which do not always work together in a joined-up way
- Poor infrastructure and IT systems to support the integration of services and joint working
- Lack of reliable and accurate data with which to monitor and assure the quality and outcomes of care.
The importance of mental health support for children
The World Health Organisation defines mental health as, “a state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”. However far from experiencing this state of normality, many children must suffer a wide-range of conditions, with little or no support, including anxiety, depression, behavioural problems, eating disorders, depression, self-harm. Unfortunately, the longer children’s mental health conditions go unrecognised, or poorly managed, the more likely it is they will continue, and potentially become worse into early adulthood and beyond.
The most vulnerable to mental conditions are those young people who fit into one or more of the following categories:
- Parental mental illness, neglect, poverty, substance misuse, abuse, domestic violence and sexual exploitation
- Disability and long-term health conditions (according to CQC, this represents 2.5% of the overall population, and of this 40 % will develop significant mental health problems.
- Refugees and asylum seekers
- Parents in the criminal justice system
- Identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
- Adopted / in care
- Young carers
- Bereavement of a parent or parents.
Clearly, not all children with such risk factors for mental health issues will suffer problems, but equally, many of those not typically considered at risk may experience any of the conditions listed above – there is no reliable way to predict with certainty.
There are many young people in our society who have experienced significant life events, including serious physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of an adult (often who were in trusted positions), who are now struggling to gain access to even the most basic level of service they need to work through the pain and torment they have experienced. By speaking to a specialist personal injury solicitor, we may be able to seek compensation to help put right what has happened, and to bypass the standard mental health services. While the Government seeks to improve the dreadful state of play within younger people’s mental health services, you may not be able to afford to wait.
Our personal injury team, led by compensation claims expert, Malcolm Underhill, has the expertise and knowledge to advise and represent you if you wish to claim compensation for personal injury. To talk about how we might be able to help, please phone us on 0333 123 9099, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or fill in our contact form. Any discussions you have with us will be in the strictest of confidence and handled with the utmost sensitivity.