Improving children's emotional health a priority for Calderdale Council after death of Ursula Keogh

Calderdale Councils Cabinet member for Children and Young Peoples Services, Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town
Calderdale Councils Cabinet member for Children and Young Peoples Services, Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town

Calderdale Council leaders have pledged to keep improving mental health services for Calderdale’s young people following comments made by the coroner at an inquest into the death of an 11-year-old girl.

Coroner Martin Fleming was speaking last week at the inquest into the death of Halifax schoolgirl Ursula Keogh from a fall from height in January this year.

READ MORE: Calderdale health officials vow to improve mental health services after death of schoolgirl Ursula Keogh

Recording a verdict that she had taken her own life, Mr Fleming heard evidence from Ursula’s family which suggested unclear communication between the youngster’s school and GP practice showed how people might not get the help they sought.

He suggested he would be writing to health chiefs asking them to present a system that is clearer to access.

READ MORE: Verdict reached into death of 'bright and sensitive' Halifax schoolgirl Ursula Keogh

Mr Fleming also asked Calderdale Council what more could be done to improve safety on a Halifax bridge following Ursula’s death with Calderdale Council highways asset manager Richard Mills providing that information at the hearing at Bradford Coroners Court.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet member for Children and Young People’s Services, Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town), said the council, while it understood that in this case its providers did not have any contact with Ursula or her family previously, would continue to work with the Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to ensure that the children and young people’s mental health services jointly commissioned are of the highest quality.

READ MORE: Safety measures at North Bridge to be questioned after inquest into death of Halifax schoolgirl

“This was a tragic event and our thoughts are of course with Ursula’s family and friends.

“Improving emotional health and wellbeing for children and young people has been identified as one of our key priorities and we do all we can to help those struggling with mental health issues.

“We are working actively with our partners, including the CCG, to drive improvements in the range of mental health services for children and in many areas these services are improving rapidly.

“In particular we are looking to improve access to services and develop new and innovative ways to meet mental health needs.

“I have again met with senior health officials this week to ensure sustained focus on delivering effective services for our young people,” she said.

Coun Swift said the council was also working with schools to help them support young people and CAMHS offer training on mental health issues to all schools in Calderdale.

“There are many services available to support young people, including lots of online support without the need to meet set criteria.

“For instance, www.openmindscalderdale.org.uk is designed by and for young people.

“It provides a range of resources, apps, videos, and information on local and national wellbeing services,” she said.

People can find out more about CAHMS online at www.calderdalecamhs.org.uk – the site includes referral guidance and other resources for professionals and families.

The council’s Cabinet member for Regeneration and Economic Strategy, Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said that during the inquest into Ursula’s death the coroner had noted and recognised the work the council is doing to prevent suicides on North Bridge in Halifax.

“North Bridge is Grade II listed, meaning that it’s of special architectural or historic interest. We have already applied for listed building consent to enable us to install permanent preventative measures on the structure of the bridge.

“We are currently looking at a range of options, including measures to reduce accessibility to the parapets.

“We also expect to be installing a new CCTV camera this week and, as suggested at the inquest, we are looking at possibility of additional signage to advise that the bridge is under CCTV surveillance.

“We anticipate that overall, the improvements to the bridge should be completed by early summer.”