Thank you to everyone who has contacted me recently about child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).
One in four people will experience mental ill-health at some point in their life. With half of all adult mental health illnesses developing before the age of 14, supporting young people’s mental health is crucial, particularly through prevention and early intervention.
Sadly too many children are unable to access support early, resulting in more young people presenting to A&E having self-harmed or experienced suicidal thoughts after their mental health problem has reached crisis point.
Children’s mental health has declined most sharply during the pandemic, yet only one in three young people with a diagnosable mental health condition can access NHS support. Two-thirds of NHS mental health trust leaders are unable to meet demand for CAMHS. And for those who are referred, just one in five start treatment within four weeks.
Without the much-needed investment, I am concerned that CAMHS will continue to be a postcode lottery and children and young people will continue to go without the support they need. A long-term recovery plan 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, with ring-fenced funding to ensure money reaches the frontline.
I am pleased that the Opposition is proposing a transformative package of support and the first ever long-term, whole-Government plan for improving mental health outcomes. Under the plan, open access mental health hubs would be made available for children and young people in every community, providing early intervention drop-in services. Alongside recruiting 8,500 new staff, the plan would ensure a full-time mental health professional in every secondary school and a part-time professional in every primary school. A new NHS target would be set to guarantee mental health treatment within a month for all who need it.
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 recover from COVID-19.