Overhaul of children and young people’s mental health services

The British Psychological Society welcomes the announcement of a five-year plan for a complete overhaul of mental health services for children and young people in England.

This follows the publication of a report this week by the Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce which found that many young people are not able to access the help they need.

Chair of Society Division of Clinical Psychology‘s Faculty of Children and Young People Julia Faulconbridge, the Society’s representative on the government Taskforce said: 

“The Taskforce successfully engaged children, young people and parents throughout and harnessed the knowledge and drive of a wide range of people who have frontline experience of working in the field. The Society commends the accurate and succinct account of the current problems in mental health provision for children, young people and families. The evidence from our members shows that these have now reached crisis point. The report contains a powerful summary of the social, psychological and economic costs of the current lack of provision and the arguments for change are very welcome.”

Amongst the many recommendations the Society highlights are:

•        Promoting resilience , prevention and early intervention.
In addition to the strengthening of specialist provision where needed, the report places a significant emphasis on the reintroduction and enhancement of provision for prevention and early intervention which has been consistently highlighted by our membership as having been lost over recent years

•        Remodelling of provision to fit the needs of children, young people and parents with integrated commissioning and provision across all settings.
This will improve the quality and quantity of provision, removing waste caused by unco-ordinated services, reducing gaps and increasing the chances that children and young people are seen in the right place first time. This means that priority needs to be given to high quality assessment and formulation at an early stage in the pathways to ensure the best starting point for intervention, using the evidence base and what is available in the locality.

•        Creating a public awareness campaign with a focus on reducing stigma.

•        Emphasis on both the existing evidence base and the need to expand this.
Academic and applied psychologists have always been at the forefront of research to increase understanding of child development and the wider social and economic impacts on children and families. They have consistently led on the strategies for enhancing children’s resilience and life chances and on ways in which they can be helped when problems arise.

•        Recognising the importance of schools.
The school environment can be harmful to young people but it can become the place where they gain most support. Schools are very complex environments and significant work needs to be undertaken in training and support provision to enable them all to take on a whole school approach to psychological well- being. Schools are working on a daily basis with children and young people with severe and complex mental health problems as well as those in the early stages of difficulties. It is vital that there is access to rapid high quality psychological assessment and that students are then seen by the most appropriate, evidence-based provision in or out of school in an integrated pathway that includes their families

•        The recognition that current age of transition around the 18th birthday is damaging to many young people in need of services.
It is inappropriate in both developmental and social terms. The Society suports the call for flexibility and would support the development of services covering young people aged up to 25 according to their needs.

•        An increased focus on the needs of children and young people with physical health problems and how physical and psychological health are connected
This cannot just be addressed through service provision but needs to be tackled by reducing inequality and disadvantage at a societal level rather than just trying to ameliorate their damaging effects.

Julia continued: “The problems described in the report have been recognised by families and those working with them for many years and have now reached crisis point . Therefore the Society supports the Taskforce’s recommendations and hopes that these are implemented carefully by the next Government with energy and commitment. The recent announcement of additional funding is a welcome step towards this.”

“In addition, the Faculty will be launching a set of papers in October this year entitled  “ What does good look like in psychological services for children, young people and families”  These will lay out the evidence and recommendations for the provision of good multidisciplinary psychological services across all settings in which children young people and parents are seen to act as a guide to commissioners and service providers in the transformation process.” 

The Taskforce report is called 'Future in mind: Promoting, protecting and improving our children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.'

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