17/06/21 – Children’s Mental Health – Westminster Hall Debate – by Helen Clark

Debate in Westminster Hall, House of Commons: 2.30pm – 4pm 16th June 2021

This debate was called by Liberal Democrat MP, Munira Wilson. It made interesting reading and had a good cross-party range of speakers. All of the MPs made some excellent points with which we would most certainly concur.

Minister Nadine Dorries too is clearly committed to this agenda and was able to list some helpful Government initiatives – but the fundamental problems remain unresolved and time is running out!

There is no guarantee whatsoever that the draft Mental Health Bill as promised in the Queen’s Speech on May 11th 2021 will address the needs of children and young people – except in clinical settings or conditions of detention. We welcome the provision for children with autism – but wider concerns are still positioned outside a legislative remit.

The 2017 Green Paper: ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’, issued during the May government, set out a very different scenario. There, children and young people’s mental health provision was not just confined to ‘end of line’ clinical settings or conditions of detention but addressed by means of prevention, early detection and treatment in school and community settings.

The Green Paper as a whole heralded a new approach; lessening the need for reliance on clinical referral and thus easing the pressures on CAMHS. However, although the current Government has appointed a Children and Young People’s Mental Health Ambassador, some Mental Health Action Teams and some Mental Health Leads in school, such provision is not uniform and is stationed beneath the umbrella of ‘pilot’, ‘trial’ and ‘advice’, rather than positioned within legislation and thus capable of automatic national roll-out and appropriate and sufficient funding.

Therefore, at any time, the Government may remove any or all of that provision to comply with what are perceived as more pressing calls on financial resources. It is essential that school and community provision is statutory as well as the clinical solutions already expected to be present in the draft Bill. A major reform of the Mental Health Mental Health Act is an opportunity to ‘get it right’ for our children and young people.

It runs the risk of being missed.