Commons Committee warns of ‘backward slide’ with children’s mental health services

The House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee has this morning released a report on Children and Young People’s Mental Health.

The report calls for urgent action to prevent mental health services slipping backwards as a result of additional demand created by the pandemic and the scale of unmet need prior to it.

MPs found that despite progress in numbers of young people receiving treatment, it was unacceptable that more than half with a diagnosable condition pre-pandemic still do not receive the mental health support they need.

Commenting on his committee’s findings, the committee chair and former health secretary, Jeremy Hunt said, “Partly because of the pandemic, we are seeing demand for mental health treatment pushing NHS services to breaking point. Whilst we recognise that capacity to provide such services is increasing, we are not convinced it is happening at a fast enough rate”.

Data from NHS Digital has suggested that in 2020 potentially one in six young people had a diagnosable mental health disorder up from one in nine three years earlier, placing a huge additional strain on already stretched children and young people’s mental health services.

The report suggested that new Mental Health Support Teams in schools offered a valuable opportunity to identify those beginning to experience problems with their mental health. However, MPs note there was no funding to roll them out nationally in the recent Spending Review settlement and argued that the current plans lack ambition.

The Report also found that too many children and young people were placed in inpatient units far from home, without adequate understanding of their rights, and subject to restrictive interventions.

Responding to today’s report, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, called for more funding for local authorities to assist in the process.  She said, “Local authorities have a lead role in promoting good mental health and tackling mental ill health. Sufficient funding is needed for councils to meet current, unmet and new demand for children’s mental health support which has been built up during the pandemic, including preventative mental wellbeing work that can stop the escalation of mental health needs, so that more costly NHS treatment is avoided”

Meanwhile,Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said, “The findings of the select committee are damning but not surprising to those in the education sector. Our members know only too well that in too many cases young people’s mental health has deteriorated during the pandemic. They require specialist assessment and support, but supply is not meeting demand”.