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Children and young people’s mental health – policy, CAMHS services, funding and education

Published Tuesday, December 19, 2017

House of Commons Library briefing on children and young people’s mental health policy

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Mental health problems which begin in childhood and adolescence can have a range of negative impacts on individuals and families, which can continue into adult life unless properly treated. The majority of adult mental health problems begin in childhood, with 50 per cent of adult mental health problems (excluding dementia) start before the age of 15, and 75 per cent start before the age of 18.

The 2010-2015 Coalition Government committed to improving mental health for children and young people, as part of their commitment to achieving “parity of esteem” between physical and mental health, and to improving the lives of children and young people. The 2011 mental health strategy, No Health without Mental Health, pledged to provide early support for mental health problems, and the former Deputy Prime Minister’s 2014 strategy, Closing the Gap: priorities for essential change in mental health, included actions such as improving access to psychological therapies for children and young people. The Department of Health and NHS England established a Children and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Taskforce which reported in March 2015 (Future in Mind) and set out ambitions for improving care over the next five years.

The 2015-2017 Government announced new funding for mental health, including specific investment in perinatal services and eating disorder services for teenagers. Additionally, the 2015 Government committed to implementing the recommendations made in The Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (February 2016), including specific objectives to improve treatment for children and young people by 2020/21. The Policing and Crime Act 2017 legislates to end the practice of children and young people being kept in police cells as a “place of safety” whilst they await mental health assessment or treatment.

As a recent joint report from the Health and Education Select Committee’s notes, schools have a front line role in children and young people’s mental health. There has been a drive to improve the provision of mental health support in schools, and to foster closer working between the health and education systems. In June 2014, the Department for Education published guidance for schools on identifying and supporting pupils who may have mental health problems. In March 2015, DfE provided schools with practical, evidence-based advice on how to deliver high-quality school based counselling, and guidance on teaching about mental health problems.

The Government has said that schools are encouraged to teach about mental health in Personal, Social and Health Education (PHSE) and that the PSHE Association, with Government funding, has produced a guide on preparing to teach about mental health and emotional wellbeing. Since then, the PSHE association has also published a programme of study, which includes mental health at key stages 4-5 and social media at key stages 2-5.  The Government is considering making PSHE a statutory requirement.

Following a January 2017 speech by the Prime Minister on transforming mental health support, a Green Paper on children and young people’s mental health was published in December 2017, which proposed improving mental health support in schools and colleges, and trialling a four week waiting time standard for access to mental health treatment.

This briefing applies to England only.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7196

Authors: Elizabeth Parkin; Robert Long; Alex Bate; Tom Powell

Topics: Health services, Mental health, Schools

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