Calderdale young people and families finding access to mental health services difficult

NHS at Broad Street Plaza, Halifax.
NHS at Broad Street Plaza, Halifax.

Young people and their families who are trying to access mental health services are still finding it hard, health chiefs heard.

The subject was raised in the public question time at the start of Calderdale Health and Wellbeing Board’s meeting by Jenny Shepherd, who said the Children and Adults Mental Health Service (CAMHS) or Children and Young People’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing paper being prepared did not examine reasons for an “epidemic” of poor mental health among children and young people, although the new Health and Wellbeing strategy sought to address the issue.

Ms Shepherd said services seemed to rely on privatised services, the efforts of teachers, parents and the self-care children and young people themselves.

She said there did seem to be a consensus about causes, including the stress of family poverty, affecting between a quarter and a fifth of families in Calderdale; under-funded and under-resourced schools driven to achieve targets through exams and tests, and exposure to social media.

In that context, the CAMHS service, now re-branded as the Open Minds Partnership, “is seeming a bit like sticking plaster – and not enough sticking plaster to go round,” she said.

Ms Shepherd said she wanted to know what action could be taken for parents trying to access CAMHS services for their child, with waiting lists of two to five years for cases other than the most serious.

The CAMHS paper said waiting lists had improved with more accessibility but Ms Shepherd said she questioned how effective this actually was.

Additionally, a parent she had spoken to about special educational needs (SEND) services wanted to know if Calderdale Council was setting targets for the number of Education Health Plans set up for children and young people.

Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group’s Chief Officer, Matt Walsh, acknowledged some issues needed to be taken away to address and some of what Ms Shepherd had said was opinion, for which a written response would have to be carefully framed.

“We agree with you that there is much work still to be done for children and their families that are facing these challenges,” he said.

“We will argue in the paper that we are making progress.”

The ambition was to be able to make them the same offer adults had, where people required planned care to meet their needs, said Dr Walsh.

Julie Jenkins, the council’s Director for Children and Young People’s Services, said that in regards to the Education Health and Care Plans targets, there were currently no targets set.