World Mental Health Day - Group Leader’s Comment – 12 October 2018

"Our Health and Wellbeing Boards across the land will be working right now with the NHS, the private and voluntary sector to commission services. Can we all work to ensure that mental health is not treated as a Cinderella service?"


World Mental Health Day this week was marked for me by a 17-year-old in my area who told me how delighted he was to finally access some talking therapy, after waiting three years. His life collapsed around him three years ago following an incident. He dropped out of school, was unable to get an apprenticeship or a job, and talked seriously about suicide. How is it we think it is acceptable not to provide anything other than acute care? How is it that we think talking to a stranger on email is good enough for so many young people who are at the end of their tether. It is a sad inditement that the biggest killer of our young men is themselves.

Like 400,000 others, including many of you, no doubt, I have been keen to support the campaigns to get better investment in our young people and their mental health, working through the LGA and online. You will have heard the announcement of a new minister to focus on preventing suicides and the local plans in place to stop unnecessary deaths.

Our Health and Wellbeing Boards across the land will be working right now with the NHS, the private and voluntary sector to commission services. Can we all work to ensure that mental health is not treated as a Cinderella service?

The number of specialist referrals to mental health services has increased by 26 per cent in the past five years, while the budget has not. Almost a quarter of children with problems severe enough to be referred, were rejected and not followed up. We do not know the outcome. Those "not serious enough" to meet the eligibility criteria included those who had self-harmed and suffered abuse. Unlike adult care, there is no nationally recognised eligibility criteria for accessing mental health services, including CAMHS, Children and adolescent mental health services.

Many areas of the country lack alternative provision as a quarter of councils have phased out vital support services, including school-based mental health support and family counselling. I chaired Relate Lincolnshire for a number of years, with council and NHS contracts, which were withdrawn for cheaper options, including limiting support for some groups to remote support only.

For those children who do manage to access appropriate support, it is worth asking how long the waiting list is in your area. These vary considerably, averaging about two months, and significantly more than the four weeks recommended in the new Government's Green paper on children's mental health.

Of course it's not just children's services under pressure. This week's CQC State of Care report states that most people are receiving a good level of Care but people's experience of services are determined by how the different parts of the health and care system work together. 

Many councils work very closely with their health counterparts but with the adult social care system facing a £3.5 billion funding gap by 2025, on top of the £6bn cuts we've already had, the system is one in a state of crisis.

Do share the initiatives that are working in your areas and where challenges to service provision exist.

Kind regards,

Cllr Marianne Overton MBE

Councillor Marianne Overton MBE
Leader of the Independent Group
Vice Chair of the Local Government Association
www.independentvoice.org.uk