Testing time for Calderdale services supporting young people with mental health problems

Prof Nick Frost
Prof Nick Frost

Young people are suffering from mental health problems and meeting the challenge tests the services they rely on for help.

But although mental health posed more problems due to issues – for example because of the increasing rise of social media – there were more ways in which support as being offered, members of Calderdale Council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Board heard,

Coun John Ford (Con, Elland) raised the issue when board members were given the chance to comment on the Calderdale Safeguarding Children’s Board annual report, which had been unveiled at Health Board before Christmas.

The board’s chairman, Prof Nick Frost, reprised highlights of the report and said Calderdale had a really efficient board with a similarly efficient team working to improve the lives of the borough’s children and young people.

Coun Ford said mental health problems being suffered by young people from young children up to sixth form level was of concern.

He had heard young people waited up to nine months for a referral – “which I think is far too long,” he said.

Prof Frost said the board was concerned and was an increasing challenge – but one actively being discussed.

He said there were also a good range of services available which meant partners – the main ones behind the safeguarding board were the local authority, the police and the local authority – were in a stronger position to help than they had been, for example in services offered online.

The council’s Director of Children and Young People’s Services, Julie Jenkins, added that a cross-party working group was seeing what further help schools could be given and a meeting was being held with Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) partners to formulate a plan to improve the pathway to specialised Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) in Calderdale.

Online counselling was proving very successful, being available in the day, in the evening and at weekends, where young people could have a counselling conversation over the internet.

The CCG was also looking at autism spectrum disorder (ASD) issues – examining the whole system to see how processes could be speeded up. More money had gone into the service.

“It is improving but it will take time,” she said.

Coun Colin Raistrick (Ind, Hipperholme and Lightcliffe) asked if there was an upward trend of child deaths in Calderdale and if so what were safeguarders doing about it?

Prof Frost said child deaths were an issue that concerned him and the panel looked at every one. They met regularly with others across West Yorkshire to discuss the issue.

Coun Sarah Courtney (Lab, Calder) asked if specific groups of children were listened to.

Prof Frost said Ms Jenkins and her team put young people’s views at the heart of their work.

Just one recent example was a get-together arranged at Orangebox, Halifax, just before Christmas which was attended by more than 150 young people teams had worked with.

A Christmas tree there contained cards on which the young people were invited to write about their thoughts and concerns anonymously. It was important they were listened to and their views taken into account.

“Our strategy is to involve young people and hear their voice,” he said.

Ms Jenkins said councillors had heard young people who had been in the local authority’s care speaking in the council chamber about their experiences.

Care leader councils were held frequently and officers attended these on a regular basis.

Councillors and lay members of the board asked questions about a range of other issues, including whether any budget surpluses outlined in the report went back into services (yes), identifying the right approaches to reach solutions to complex issues, whether female genital mutilation was an issue in Calderdale (no) and how fostering could be improved.

In terms of child protection issues, the safeguarding board worked closely with paediatricians, midwives and other professionals to identify problems when they arose, said Prof Frost.

In answer to a question about who the board’s partners were, Prof Frost outlined changes that were happened with Government scrapping children’s safeguarding boards in this form, with local areas being asked to make their own arrangements.

Under new arrangements being made in Calderdale, the Chief Constable, the Chief Executive of the CCG and the Director of local authority social services would be accountable. The new boards must have independent scrutiny.

Calderdale’s had got off to a good start by being awarded local adopter status, he said – one of only 17 areas in the country working with the National Children’s Bureau to launch the new safeguarding arrangements before they are adopted across the rest of the UK.