Teachers are the latest professional group to report that Britain’s schoolchildren are suffering from an epidemic of anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.
Too many children are not receiving the timely treatment they need from the NHS.
Many of us whose work brings us into contact with children and young people have been aware of this problem for some time.
It is the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) that is responsible for providing the services required. However, they don’t seem to be doing very good job of it.
Young people have to wait months to start treatment and it is not uncommon for some to wait two years! This means their conditions can become more entrenched and they can come to harm during this time. Clearly NHS/CAMHS are failing our young people.
Funding is of course an issue. However, the ‘scatter gun’ approach adopted by the Government and NHS England in funding small, short-term projects is an ineffective way to spend what funding is available.
The current situation, where a wide range of groups and organisations aim to deal with various aspects of the problem (often with short-term funding) does not make effective use of resources.
There is a desperate need for coordination and leadership to consolidate services in such a way that they are made more cost-effective, easily understood and accessible to the young.
As with many problems, early intervention can address issues in their early stages. This reduces spending in the long-term and, most importantly, provides young people with the services they need. Schools can play a major part in this but they need help, training and support if they are going to be able to do this.
Under my chairmanship, Calderdale Council’s People Scrutiny Board has recently reported on these issues. Tasking the council’s cabinet and the health and well-being board to address them and work together to ensure the health and social care system provides a more effective response to the emotional health and well-being of children and young people.
This must not to be kicked into the long grass.
A more effective system of dealing with these problems is essential now if we are not to store up trouble for the future of our young people and society.
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