Government announces £3.3m funding to support children and young people’s mental health

Against a backdrop of significant increases in the number of children and young people who suffer from mental illness the government has announced £3.3 million in funding to expand 23 local projects to help prevent mental illness in children and young people.

Thousands of young people across England will benefit from new mental health support including counselling, mentoring and arts programmes in their communities. This will be backed by a multi-million pound government investment this year.

As part of the government’s commitment to transforming mental health care – backed by an extra £2.3 billion a year through the NHS Long Term Plan – Mental Health Minister Nadine Dorries and Public Health Minister Jo Churchill announced an investment of a further £3.3 million.

Earlier this year the government pledged to overhaul society’s approach to mental illness through better access to education, training and support across communities. This included a commitment to train all teachers to spot the signs of mental illness in children, making sure they can intervene before issues escalate.

The Department of Health & Social Care claims the funding will allow more children and young people aged 25 and under to access local services to support their mental health, with early intervention for those at risk of mental health problems. The projects have an emphasis on improving access to support outside of NHS services, including for groups such as LGBT young people or those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

Projects receiving funding include:

  • LifeLine Community Projects in Barking and Dagenham will receive over £298,000 to expand their work with young people most at risk of poor mental health, with preventative support to stop problems escalating and reduce pressure on NHS services
  • York Mind will receive £50,000 to expand their Arts Award programme, which connects young people to the arts, enabling them to increase their skills, confidence, sense of identity and reduce isolation, alongside one-to-one support
  • The Proud Trust’s Peer Support Project in Manchester will receive over £23,000 to support more LGBT young people through life-changing events, including discovering their sexuality/gender and coming out

However welcome the additional funding may be there is an argument to say – it falls a long way short of matching the complexity and scope of mental illness.

According to the YoungMinds charity “mental health is a big issue for young people”

  • 1 in 8 children have a diagnosable mental health disorder – that’s roughly 3 children in every classroom
  • 1 in 6 young people aged 16-24 has symptoms of a common mental disorder such as depression or an anxiety disorder.
  • Half of all mental health problems manifest by the age of 14, with 75% by age 24.
  • In 2017, suicide was the most common cause of death for both boys (16.2% of all deaths) and girls (13.3%) aged between 5 and 19.
  • Nearly half of 17-19 year olds with a diagnosable mental health disorder has self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point, rising to 52.7% for young women.

However the current needs of children and young people are not being met as demand for services grows.

  • Less than 1 in 3 children and young people with a diagnosable mental health condition get access to NHS care and treatment.
  • The average median waiting time for children in 2017/18 was 5 weeks to receive an initial assessment and 9 weeks to receive treatment.
  • In a YoungMinds survey, three-quarters (76%) of parents said that their child’s mental health had deteriorated while waiting for support from Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS).
  • In total, less than 1% of the total NHS budget is spent on children and young people’s mental health services.
  • The number of A&E attendances by young people aged 18 or under with a recorded diagnosis of a psychiatric condition has almost tripled since 2010.

While it may be argued that while there is greater awareness in schools and the wider health service of the needs of children and young people as regards mental illness, as the demand for services increase, access to care and support along with the speed of access required to maximise outcomes, a great deal of further investment will be required. While £3.3 million to support 23 local projects is a small part of the overall spend on mental health it perhaps emphasises how far short we are of delivering a complete network of support for children and young people.

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