01/03/17 – The mental health of children and young people – what needs to be done?

Speakers: Sean Fletcher, personal testimony; Dr. David Whitebread, Learning & Development (PEDAL) research centre, University of Cambridge; Gregor Henderson, Wellbeing and Mental Health, Public Health England

1st March 2017 – meeting notes

All-Party Parliamentary Group on a Fit and Healthy Childhood

The mental health of children and young people – what needs to be done? 

Chair: Baroness Benjamin

The meeting was opened by Baroness Benjamin who welcomed the members and the speakers, and commented on the success of recent meeting with Lord Nash and bringing the groups concerns to government.

Sean Fletcher, personal testimony

Speaker commented on his personal experiences with the inadequacies of Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and his son.  A year to get an appointment with the Maudsley Hospital. Another 6 months until treatment could start.  Why does it take so long to get mental health when this wouldn’t be the case in other areas?

Why is mental health so underfunded? Attitudes and funding need to change.

Gregor Henderson, National Lead, Wellbeing and Mental Health, Public Health England

Gregor Henderson, National Lead, Wellbeing and Mental Health, Public Health England

A whole child approach is helpful. Physical, emotional, social and psychological needs.

PHE offers support on data, evidence and information and sees children’s mental health as part of a child’s overall health and wellbeing. PHE has published a range of resources on children’s mental health (attached)

NHS England is taking forward work on transforming children and young people’s mental health services and has been allocated an additional 1.4 billion up to 2020/21 to help. The programme is called ‘future in mind’.

The work in improving children and young people’s services includes working in local areas across health, social care and education and in partnership with the voluntary and community sector.

The Prime Minister made an announcement on mental health on 9 January. Within this, she announced that there will be a Green Paper on Children and Young People’s Mental Health. This will be prepared for launch in the Autumn and provides a good opportunity to help influence the future of children’s mental health in England.

Doctor David Whitebread, Play in Education, Learning and Development (PEDAL) research centre, University of Cambridge

Early years of childhood are being ignored. It is a nationwide problem that is not being addressed.  Public Health England report that 1 in 12 suffers mental illness. More than 500,000 suffer mental illness.

Treatment is important. However, Should there be a counsellor in every school? Why is this necessary?

There are serious endemic problems. A lack of opportunity to play is one of these.  Play is the opposite of depression. There has been huge decline in play in the last half century.  Environmental conditions that have gone unrecognised. This is tantamount to mental cruelty.


Charlotte Davis, Fit 2 Learn – There must be a checking of motor skills, and binocular vision. Currently this is not done. Why? Panel reflected on importance of early diagnosis. The continuation of deficit models was criticised.

Sonia Fihosy, Mytime Active – Commented on the importance of active play.

Melian Mansfield, London Play – National trust figures put problem as high as 1 in 4 with mental health issues. Promoted the idea of street play for children. How can we make politicians aware of the problem?

Sean Fletcher raised concerns that money was not ring-fenced.

Gregor Henderson. Departments must cooperate more effectively. Invited group to contribute to upcoming green paper.  A holistic approach is necessary.

Dr Mark Bellamy, Leisurelines GB – There must be more structure in term of sports. He welcomed Lord Nash’s interest.

Dr Whitebread mentioned the long term protection of having a playful experience early on.

Agnes Javor, broadcaster, teacher, counsellor – How can group play role to persuade government?

Keith Taylor – There has been an increase self-reported mental distress.  Services are being distracted by young people using the services that should be used for clinical problems. Best evidence suggests that investment in early years will see a return.

Sean Fletcher questioned if CAMHS are working.

Neil Coleman, OPAL midlands – Schools want to change, how can we help?

Gregor Henderson suggested a task shift to early intervention involving school staff. There is a need to articulate a narrative involving the wider community.

Katherine Sexton, Juka Dance – Obsession with data has meant problems are ignored. Can we put pressure on OFSTED?


Gregor Henderson urged the group to get involved with the drafting of the green paper.

Dr Whitebread asked if public funding could be saved and suggested an app called easypeasy, http://easypeasyapp.com/, which helps children learn to play. He also mentioned the problems with investment in good early years’ teachers and the need for targeted interventions

Sean Fletcher insisted head teachers must not push children to crisis point.

Baroness Benjamin brought up that understanding of the first 18 months of development is vital and continues all the way up to 7 years old. She thanked the group and applauded their ongoing efforts.