Children's mental health - cause for concern over funding

January 22, 2018 5:06 PM

Hard cases make bad laws, but we were profoundly struck today by the father of a person with a mental illness telling the story of how his daughter, on the day of her 18th birthday, was removed from a specialist children's facility and ended up in an adult one 400 miles from home. With any other illness or condition, this would have caused a national uproar at the time. The fact that it didn't shows that public opinion - through the media - is still not being engaged enough.

One in 10 children are estimated to have a diagnosable mental illness, and 75% of mental health problems in adulthood started before the age of 18. There is both a moral and an economic case for dealing with mental ill health among children and teenagers. However, three in four children with mental illness are not in touch with appropriate mental health services, and it can sometimes take up to 10 years before the first symptoms are diagnosed and addressed.​

Despite securing £1.25bn additional investment for children's mental health in the coalition government's last budget, a survey by the charity Young Minds found that 50% of all Clinical Commissioning Groups are not spending the full allocation on children's mental health. Instead, it is being diverted to prop up local acute hospitals. This is - I quote - "scandalous [and] amounts to theft of money solemnly pledged by the Government for children's mental health".

The Government must ensure that additional funding is in future tied to a commitment from CCGs that every penny of it is spent on children's mental health.

Just as physical and sexual health are, mental health should be on school curricula so that every teenager learns about their mental health, and about how they can become more robust in coping with the challenges they face.

Because there are no maximum waiting time standards, many children experiencing mental ill health are left waiting, sometimes for months, to get any treatment at all. The Government has a duty to ensure that when a child needs specialist evidence-based treatment, they get it on time.

Mental health may not be as headline grabbing as cancer care or A&E overcrowding, but it is just as vital to the life prospects of very many people.