MPs warn child mental health plans ‘lack ambition’

9 May 18

Hundreds of thousands of children in England will miss out on mental health support under the government’s plans to reform the service, a joint select committee has said.

MPs from the education and health and social care committees criticised the government’s green paper on children’s mental health, saying it “lacks ambition and will provide no help for the majority of those children who desperately need it.”

The report The Government’s Green Paper on Mental Health: Failing a Generation, said “the speed of delivery will leave hundreds of thousands of children with no improvements in provision for several years”.

It claimed that the government’s slow roll out of its green paper proposals would only reach a fifth to a quarter of the country by 2022-23.

Published today, the cross-party report said the interests of children and young people should be at the heart of services and there should be an emphasis on early prevention of childhood mental health issues.

Multiple groups voiced support of the committee’s conclusions.

Javed Khan, chief executive of children’s charity Barnado’s, warned that the country was “sleep-walking into a mental health crisis.”

He continued: “Too little is being done, too late to tackle the burning injustice of the mental health crisis facing thousands of vulnerable children.

Mary Bousted, general secretary of the National Education Union, backed the committee’s proposal that the government gather independent evidence concerning the impact of exam pressure on young people’s mental health.

She said: “A government that’s complacent about child poverty and relaxed about excessive testing in schools can’t claim to care about young people’s mental health.

“The NEU shares the concerns about the slow timeframes for action which will leave many children without care that is urgent.”

The government’s green paper, which was published in December 2017, announced funding for new mental health support teams in schools and the trial of a four-week waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health.

Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, also endorsed the committee’s findings regarding the slow roll-out of proposals.

“As a starting point, we want to see councils and schools given the funding to offer independent mental health counselling so pupils have access to support as and when they need it,” he said.

A government spokesperson took issue with the report’s findings.

“We completely reject any suggestion that our plans lack ambition – these changes will transform mental health services for children and young people, including the first ever waiting time standards for those with the most serious problems,” they said.

“This will be supported by a new workforce – larger than the entire current workforce – and backed by £300m of additional funding that will also provide significant additional resources for all schools.”

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