The National Children's Bureau has today published a report on behalf of four All-Party Parliamentary Groups which sets out the principles that should drive reforms to mental health services for children and young people.
Concerned by the prevalence of poor emotional and mental health among children and young people and the capacity of services to meet their needs, MPs and Peers have identified key elements of good practice which should underpin provision for mental health and wellbeing, including:
- Giving children access to age-appropriate mental health services with a particular emphasis on supporting young people during their transition to adulthood.
- Properly coordinating and integrating services, especially between schools, CAMHS, GPs, local authority children's services and youth justice teams.
- Providing training for all professionals working with children and young people so they have the skills to properly assess and respond to their needs.
- Consulting with children and young people when commissioning services.
- Providing age-appropriate information for children and young people, parents, carers and other professional groups.
The findings emerged from a series of seminars convened in Parliament between November 2014 and January 2015. Evidence was heard from experts in areas where mental health is of particular concern including: the online world; the complex needs of young offenders; the role of schools; and care leavers' transition to independent adulthood.
The seminars raised a number of key challenges across these different topics:
- Relationships - healthy attachments with adults provide children with stability and a person with whom to share their emotions. Yet without specialist training, many teachers, social workers and other professionals are unable to fully support children's needs, particularly in times of crisis.
- Service provision - evidence given at the events confirmed the findings of the recent taskforce on child mental health, that too frequently children and young people experience a 'postcode lottery' in accessing services and support.
- Transitions - Children's mental health and wellbeing is significantly affected by how they are supported during periods of change. The critical period is at age 16 to 18 when young people leave care or the responsibility for their support moves to adult services.
Baroness Massey of Darwen, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Children said:
'Responding to the mental health needs of children and young people requires a joined-up approach across services, and a commitment to understanding the wider context of a child's life. We are encouraged that our report is being published at a time when government has committed to better funding for child mental health.We hope this will enable professionals to form effective relationships with the children they work with, drawing upon well-resourced support available for both children and their families.'