Councils have a vital role in supporting children and young people’s mental wellbeing and ensuring they have the support they need to thrive. We are calling for a cross-Whitehall strategy that puts children and young people at the heart of recovery.
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- Councils have a vital role in supporting children and young people’s mental wellbeing and ensuring they have the support they need to thrive. The LGA has long called for greater investment in the early help and preventative services that help children have mentally healthy childhoods and reduce the pressure on the services that treat mental illness in children and young people.
- The pandemic has exacerbated existing mental health issues among children and young people, with the number of children and young people referred to mental health services soaring by 134 per cent between April and June 2021. However, even before this children’s mental health services had seen a massive increase in demand, with the number of children referred to mental health services increasing by nearly 60 per cent between 2017/18 and 2019/20.
- We are calling for a cross-Whitehall strategy that puts children and young people at the heart of recovery. Mental health needs to be addressed as part of a holistic approach to overall health and wellbeing, underpinned by investment in community-based early help and preventative services that can stop the escalation of mental health needs.
- Councils welcomed the Wellbeing for Education Return and Recovery funding. They used the funding in a range of different ways, including investing in support lines, developing digital information spaces, providing training to schools and investing in additional support staff. However, the funding provided was a small amount of money given the scale of the need being presented to schools, councils and health services.
- Long term sustainable funding is needed for councils to meet current, unmet and new demand for children’s mental health support that has built up during the pandemic. Supporting young people’s mental health should not been seen as solely an NHS issue. The vital services councils provide are essential to supporting children and young people’s wellbeing; councils need to be treated as an equal partner and adequately resourced to ensure all young people who need it can access comprehensive and timely support.
- We support the intentions set out in the 2017 Green paper ‘Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision,’ and we’re pleased that there has been recognition that local government will be vital in its delivery. However, given the impact of the pandemic and the preceding rise in demand for mental health services, the pace of implementation needs to increase.
- We are calling for early support hubs, which allow young people to access mental health support without referrals, to be made available for young people nationwide. These centres bring together various services to support young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing - such as youth services; sexual health, drug and alcohol, health and wellbeing practitioners; and mental health practitioners - before they hit crisis point. The hubs, which have already been rolled out in some areas, are delivering positive outcomes with some reporting social and economic benefit returns of more than triple the money that has been invested.
- Councils have a lead role in managing the hubs and should be seen as partners in supporting their communities’ mental health needs. In addition to increased funding, councils want to see the introduction of new frameworks to improve partnership working with the NHS and third sector partners to ensure support hubs deliver the best outcomes.
- To truly address the crisis in the mental health of our children and young people, government needs to build on the progress made through the Green Paper and empower councils to develop a systemic approach to mental health, that effectively brings together all local partners and prioritises and funds early intervention.