Mental health coalition warn of ‘domino effect’ on services for children and young people

Mental health support services for children and young people face a “domino effect” due to significant financial challenges facing organisations in the community, a coalition of groups has warned.

Ministers have been urged to create a financial recovery package for voluntary and community sector organisations to ensure they can continue to deliver their “vital work” in early support for children.

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, which represents 240 organisations, said that services are not able to keep up with demand amid rising numbers of children in need of mental health support.

It also warned that the coronavirus pandemic has placed additional pressure on support services, particularly those in the voluntary and community sector.

The major providers of early support services are voluntary or community service organisations but a lack of funding and “complex commissioning” means it is “tricky” to establish these services, according to the coalition’s 2021 report.

And where they are in place they are reliant on “short-term and fragmented” funding due to some services being organised by local councils and others by NHS services, it added.

“Many organisations from across the voluntary and community sector are now facing significant financial challenges,” the report states.

“This risks limiting the support they can offer young people, and consequently creating a domino effect across the children and young people’s mental health sector.”

The coalition has made a series of recommendations to the Government, including to fund a network of early support hubs to be rolled out across the country, which would provide young people somewhere to go when they need support with their mental health.

Meanwhile, voluntary and community sector organisations need a sufficient financial recovery package to “ensure they can continue to deliver their vital work”, the report adds.

Sir Norman Lamb (pictured), chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, said: “We know that children and young people’s mental health is not improving, in fact it has been deteriorating in recent years, and the pandemic has heightened the many challenges that young people face. We must not underestimate the severity of the situation.

“Whilst we recognise the investment that has been made in mental health support, our members are calling out for real change in the children’s mental health system. We can no longer keep putting a sticking plaster on the wounds of an inadequate system.”

Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “The pandemic has exacerbated existing mental health issues among children and young people, with the number of people referred to mental health services soaring by 134% between April and June alone this year.

“The Children’s Commissioner predicts that damage to children’s health caused by Covid-19 could last for years without a large-scale funding increase for children’s mental health services. We echo these concerns.

“It is vital that effective and evidence-based mental health and wellbeing services and statutory mental health services for children are able to meet existing, new and unmet demand that has built up during the pandemic to support children and young people to thrive and overcome the challenges presented by Covid-19.”

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