Growing up in today’s world seems to be harder than ever.
The pressure placed on children and young people by the state during their formative years is immense.
Mental health problems affect 1 in 10 children and young people, while 70% who experience a mental health problem have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age.
As children and young people move through the early years into primary then secondary education, the state insists on an incessant need to test and examine them.
For a number of children and young people this substantial pressure will cause them a huge amount of stress and anxiety.
There are also many children and young people who are living in a social environment that will have an adverse impact on both their educational and social development and if left unchecked, will have a negative impact on their future life chances.
Impact of poor childhood mental health
The impact of poor childhood mental health on later life is huge. Some 75% of adults with mental health problems are first unwell in childhood or adolescence.
Childhood mental health problems also increase risk of other negative outcomes in life, including entering the criminal justice system.
The emotional wellbeing of children and young people is as important as their physical health. Good mental wellbeing allows children and young people to develop resilience to the challenges life throws at them.
An emotional education
Children and young people deserve an excellent education that prepares them not just academically, but also emotionally.
It is necessary for all schools to have good pastoral care provision in place and deliver early mental health interventions.
But schools cannot do this alone. There needs to be a fundamental overhaul of the education system that rebalances academic learning and emotional wellbeing, making pastoral care and mental health early interventions a statutory duty for all schools.
Who will pay?
The big question is; how will it all be paid for? To rebalance academic learning and emotional wellbeing, there must be a rebalancing of how mental health treatment and interventions are funded.
Currently additional funding for CAMHS falls within the remit of Clinical Commissioning Groups, which have no obligation to involve Councils or Health and Wellbeing Boards.
A 2015 Freedom of Information request showed that CCGs are not spending all of their funding allocated for mental health services.
For children and young people’s mental health services (CYPMHS) to work, there must firstly be a realistic and ringfenced allocated budget.
The responsibility and additional funding for commissioning CYPMHS must be taken away from CCGs (the analysis from the FOI proves this does not work) and devolved through Councils to Public Health.
This will ensure the entire budget allocated for Children and Young People’s mental health treatment and interventions will be spent on mental health, and not used to plug deficits or shortfalls.
As part of this transfer of responsibility, CAMHS would move into the remit of Public Health.
Aligned to this there must be a fundamental rethink on how mainstream schools are funded. Currently they are funded mainly by the Dedicated Schools Grant (DSG). In addition to the DSG, many schools received a pupil premium grant – based on the number of pupils on roll entitled to Free School Meals. Many schools also receive a High Needs Grant aligned to pupils and it is this grant that should be utilised to increase mental health early intervention and pastoral care within schools.
Allocate funding to children and young people with mental illness
According to the Equality Act 2010 mental illnesses are classed as disabilities, therefore in my opinion they should be treated as such, especially within a school setting. Whilst there is clearly no way to accurately measure the number of Children and Young People living with a mental health issue – especially for those yet to be identified - funding can be allocated by measuring the current number of pupils on roll with a mental illness diagnosis and by mapping the trends of those diagnosed in previous years.
In addition to this, an additional grant should be allocated to public health to cover any shortfall in schools High Needs Grants, should there be a need.
This would allow schools to put in place the mental health early intervention and pastoral care provision required, and negates any impact on the budget needed to educate our children and young people.
By fundamentally changing the way schools are funded and by transferring responsibility from CCGs for commissioning CYPMHS through Local Authorities to Public Health, there is a real opportunity to give all of our Children and Young People the best chance in life.