Making 2020 a milestone for children’s mental health – Helen Clark writes

2 January 2020

Happy New Year to everyone who has given their professional expertise to support the Child Mental Health Charter Campaign!

In eight non-stop months, campaigners and Registrants have put the urgent crisis in children’s mental health on the national map; winning support from politicians on a cross-party basis and engaging with   successive Government Ministers to press the case.

2019 ended with a hard-won achievement: Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his intention in the Queen’s Speech to reform the out-dated 1983 Mental Health Act.

The significance of this should not be underestimated.

Brexit had dominated the parliamentary landscape for three years and it took unceasing effort on behalf of many organisations to put mental health on the Johnson Government’s radar.

The Child Mental Health Charter Campaign Team is immensely proud to have played a major part in securing that achievement and is profoundly grateful to everyone who helped us in achieving that aim.

But there is EVEN MORE WORK FOR CAMPAIGNERS TO DO in 2020!

The Prime Minister made NO mention of the urgent mental health needs of children and unless these are central to a reformed Mental Health Act, a lot of time and money will have been spent on a negligible outcome.

A survey published today by the mental health charity Stem4 includes the shocking findings that:

  • Four in ten GPs currently advise parents/carers of children with mental health problems to pay for private care because NHS services cannot cope with the demand
  • Failure to ‘go private’ could result in a wait for NHS services of up to 18 months
  • The NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) is now refusing to accept some referrals and one GP says that it is actually easier to see the pope than a psychiatrist!
  • An emergent ‘two-tier’ system excludes children from economically disadvantaged families from care; thus exacerbating existing inequalities and furthering societal division
  • Parents thrown back on private care are given no guidance about which service or professional to ‘purchase’ and the private sector cannot always provide the meticulous, directed specialist assessment and intervention required by children with complex mental health needs
  • Children who are accepted for treatment by CAMHS face a wait of between three and six months (27%) and up to a year (28%)
  • GPs attempting to help children who have been refused by CAMHS are forced to turn to schools (many of which have facilities that are seriously inadequate) and charities (the majority already overburdened)
  • 73% of people think that NHS mental health services for children have declined/deteriorated over the past year, despite some additional funding and governmental pledges about future initiatives
  • A poll of 1,000 parents found that 76% were worried about their child’s mental health; 72% feared that their child might come to harm and 56% considered that they themselves would be ill-equipped to deal with a child’s difficulties

In addition, speaking today on BBC4’s ‘Woman’s’ Hour’, Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield stressed that it was vital to prioritise early intervention measures in the field of child mental health before incipient problems escalated and became increasingly difficult to address.

The Child Mental Health Charter Team’s New Year resolution is to achieve the inclusion of children’s mental health needs at the heart of a reformed Metal Health Act; underpinned by the Six Principles in our Charter.

WE NEED YOUR HELP!

We are starting 2020 by asking all Registrants to meet their local MP and encourage them to support our MP Charter Pledge, accessed at www.childmentalhealthcharter.com . MPs return to the House of Commons on Monday, January 7th and their constituency offices will be open from that date also.

Please do tell us how you get on by contacting Helen Clark (Campaign Spokesperson) on helenrclark@ntlworld.com  who can also try to help with any information that you think you will need.

YOUR DEDICATION AND ENTHUSIASM REALLY CAN CHANGE CHILDREN’S LIVES AND GIVE THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES A FUTURE TO ENJOY AS WE BEGIN 2020.

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