Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) and the impact that COVID-19 has had on accessing support.
On average, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. Half of adult mental health illnesses develop before the age of 14 and so supporting young people’s mental health is crucial, particularly through prevention and early intervention.
The outbreak of COVID-19 and restrictions on social gatherings have the potential to exacerbate existing mental health problems or spark new ones. Reports suggest that the pandemic is having a profound impact on children and young people’s mental health.
I believe a long-term recovery plan for children, young people and their families is required if we are going to address problems that have arisen in lockdown. This will require investment in social care and mental health services as well as excellent learning and extra social and emotional support.
Without the much-needed resources, I am concerned that CAMHS will continue to be a postcode lottery and many children and young people will continue to go without the vital mental health support they need. I support a doubling in investment for CAMHS and ring-fenced funding to ensure money reaches the frontline.
The Institute of Public Policy Research reports that only 48% of schools offer on-site counselling services – fewer than in 2010. The figures also show a big discrepancy between private schools and state schools, and schools in wealthier or more deprived areas.
The Government has pledged that every school and college will have a designated lead in mental health by 2025. If Ministers are to take children’s mental health seriously and relieve pressure on CAMHS, I believe they must provide schools with the resources and guidance to support this.
My Labour colleagues and I will continue to make the case that parity for mental health and promoting children and young people’s wellbeing must be a priority for the Government as we confront COVID-19.