Additional mental health support for children and young people has been pledged by the Government. The £5 million fund for ‘Early Support Hubs’ aims to ensure young people have access to early intervention before they reach crisis point. Mental Health Minister Maria Caulfield said, 'To parents across the nation – I want to assure you we’re working to get your children that vital early support. Our funding will help hubs to hire counsellors, youth workers and other local experts.'
- Around 60% of children go untreated for mental health issues after referral
- Children's mental health in crisis
- Teenage suicide rate rises by over a third
The Early Support Hubs will offer mental health support and advice to young people without the need for a referral by a doctor or school. Currently, a network of around 60 Early Support Hubs already exists in England and offers support such as group work, counselling, psychological therapies, and signposting to other services. The £5 million fund will go to 10 of these pre-existing hubs to expand their current work. The hubs will also offer advice on wider issues affecting the mental health of young people, including sexual health, exams, drugs and financial worries. 'Early intervention in mental health is paramount,' said the Government’s Youth Mental Health Ambassador, Dr Alex George. 'No child or young person experiencing trauma should reach crisis point, and nobody should endure the enormous tragedy of losing a loved one to mental illness.'
But some health leaders questioned the adequacy of the funding. Chief executive of the NHS Confederation's Mental Health Network, Sean Duggan, said the extra funding is 'very welcome' and that the service will particularly help young people transitioning from children and adolescent mental health services to adult ones. However, Duggan recognised there will be challenges ahead, particularly staffing the new services as 'demand will be high and they risk being overwhelmed'. Demand for mental health services has increased significantly since the COVID pandemic and waiting times have remained 'stubbornly high'. A report published by the NHS in September 2022 revealed average waiting times. Between referral and second contact for children and young people in England (April 2021-March 2022), it was 41 days. Over 39,000 patients waited 12 weeks or more.
While the £5 million fund is a good start, Duggan noted the importance of continued financial support from the Government. 'Further down the line we would want to see a roll out of these hubs, along with roll out of Mental Health Support Teams in schools included in the forthcoming update to the NHS Long Term Plan.' He said in the Confederation’s response to the new funding. 'We need to know what the next Long-Term Plan will look like, what funding will be available to support it, and what proportion will be for children and young people's services.'