Norman Lamb 180Children and young people’s mental health services need a complete overhaul to stop vulnerable young people missing out on vital support, Care and Support Minister Norman Lamb will announce today. 

Following an in-depth look at mental health and wellbeing support for children and young people, the Government has set out a blueprint for improving care over the next 5 years.

This includes providing tailored support to match the needs of individual children and young people; easier access to care; and better support for families are some of the proposals outlined in a report, commissioned by the Government last year. 

Co-chaired by Martin McShane, NHS England's Director for Patients with Long Term Conditions, and Jon Rouse, Director General for Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships, a Taskforce was convened by Norman Lamb last year and has worked over six months to develop proposals.

Other proposals include:

Tackling stigma and improving attitudes to mental illness by building on the success of Time to Change and developing a targeted campaign to create a culture where young people and their families are not afraid to seek help

Information and self-help via online tools and apps with approved information and support that will help young people ‘self-care’ and know how to seek professional help if they need it

Changing the way services are commissioned so that care is based around the needs of children and their families and they can get the right support from the right service at the right time

Continued support throughout teenage years in to early 20s to avoid a cliff-edge of lost support at 18

‘One stop shop’ support services in the community so that anyone needing support knows where to find it

Improved care for children and young people in crisis so they are treated in the right place at the right time, as close to home as possible. This would build on the work of the Crisis Care Concordat to make sure no-one under 18 experiencing a mental health crisis is detained in a police cell

More support for parents to help them improve family relationships, avoid early trauma, support their children to build resilience and improve behaviour

Mental health training for health professionals, including GPs, and others who work with children and young people such as staff in schools to help them identify problems and make sure children and young people get the help they need

Improved access for children and young people who are particularly vulnerable, such as looked after children and care leavers, and those in contact with the youth justice system.

The report sets out how much of this can be achieved through better links between the NHS, local authorities, charities, schools and other local services. It is also says many of these proposals can be achieved by reorganising and without the need for significant further investment. 

 “Children and young people face enormous challenges – from exam pressures and starting higher education or work, to relationships and peer pressure – and these can be intensified by constant exposure to social media,” Lamb said.

"I want to change the way we think about mental health care so that any child, whether they have a mental illness or simply need support through a difficult time, can get the right help at the right time. There are some excellent examples of areas that have got this right with ‘one-stop-shop’ services in the community, information and support online via apps, and help for whole families. These plans set out how we can ensure no child is left struggling alone.”

Welcome report

Sarah Brennan, chief executive of charity YoungMinds, welcomed the report, but noted that it “has to be the start of a journey and not the end.” 

She said: “We particularly welcome the recommendations on whole school approaches to building resilience, on the role of technology in young people and parents accessing support, the importance of peer support, the one stop shop model, on a single point of access, joint training for GP’s, teachers and CAHMS staff and a dedicated contact person in specialist mental health services for all educational establishments.  We also welcome the much needed focus on vulnerable groups including young offenders and looked after children.

“What matters now is that we see progress on implementing the recommendations. They must be the catalyst, the start of a new and bold journey that leads to major change. Whatever happens, this report must be taken forward so that we see a real difference on the ground for the many desperate children and their families who are struggling to get the help they need.”

The Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition (CYPMHC) also welcomed the report. Professor Dame Sue Bailey, chair of the CYPMHC, said: “We know full well what the problems are, and call on all political parties to prioritise children and young people’s mental health in their election manifestos.  The focus for the new Government should be on prioritising children and young people’s mental health and putting in place the actions needed to implement the proposals in this report.  

“Our children and young people deserve better.  Every child and young person, regardless of where they live has the right to access early intervention services, and high quality specialist mental health services that are as close to their home as possible. 

“Whilst we need to wait for the next Government to see progress on some of the proposals, others are cost neutral and require different ways of working. We need national organisations and local agencies to take up the challenge. This is where partnership working, the development of local transformation plans and co-commissioning will be crucial to driving through improvements in local areas and ensuring that these policy proposals are implemented.”  

Careful implementation

But Dr Peter Hindley, chair of the Child and Adolescent Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists warned that the recommendations require careful implementation.

“The College has strong concerns that the very services that are working with our most vulnerable children and young people could actually see their resources depleted.

“Specialist CAMH services are already stretched, as the Royal College of Psychiatrist’s recent report, Survey of in-patient admissions for children and young people with mental health problems: Young people stuck in the gap between community and in-patient care demonstrates. The Taskforce’s recommendation to redesign the current system could see this situation exacerbated.

“The College therefore calls for the Taskforce recommendations to be carefully implemented, with the aim of strengthening and improving the specialist services that play a crucial role in the lives of our most vulnerable children and young people.”