A new mental health act: Time to deliver for children

As Parliament awaits the government Bill to reform the 1983 Mental Health Act, Baroness Frances D’Souza, Honorary President of The Children’s Alliance believes that ‘It’s time to deliver for children.’

Introducing ‘The Mental Health of Children and Young People,’ she said:

‘This new Children’s Alliance evidence-based report shows that it’s time for the forthcoming new Bill to deliver for children and young people. Demand for truly national mental health services covering the full range of need was high before the pandemic but now it’s off the scale. We can’t turn back time but we can start early with the legal protection provided by a fully-funded National Strategy for Mental Health. The earlier the intervention, the less likely that successive adult societies will pay a human and economic bill for mental illness.’

With NHS data showing a 90% increase on 2020 figures in the number of children referred for urgent mental health treatment (2,260 in June 2021 alone) key proposals include:

  • Universal screening for maternal mental health to identify women at risk; at a time when early interventions could be offered
  • A fully-funded National Mental Health Recovery Plan encompassing a national network of fully-funded mental health support teams and a long-term workforce plan
  • Statutory national in-school counselling/play therapy services staffed only by those who are professionally accredited and registered through an independent government–approved agency
  • All UK governments to fund further research into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with the objective of producing clear National Strategies
  • NHS England and the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities to adopt a public mental health approach encompassing a focus on mental ill health prevention early in the life course; recognising the importance of early detection and prompt access to professional treatment
  • A National UK Strategy for Play; encompassing play provision and facilities in all schools and early years settings as well as ring-fenced funding for public play space provision
  • Training in children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing to be a compulsory component of GP Initial Training (IT) and Compulsory Professional Development (CPD) and for all teachers and professionals and practitioners in health education and Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC)
  • Accurate tracking and monitoring of mental health disorders and service-users should be maintained across the four nations
  • Ensure that children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child are central to all government policies.

Kate Day, director of KRD training, counselling and consultancy said:

“Professionals on the ground are reporting continuing and serious concerns about the state of our children and young people’s mental health. The government must act now to halt the next pandemic – in children’s mental health.
“This report recommends a fully-funded National Strategy for Mental Health from the point of pre-conception. It demands that the Government act now by prioritising funding for child and adolescent mental wellbeing at the top of its agenda to protect the future generations of our nation.’

Lead author Helen Clark added:

“The government’s White Paper on Reform of the 1983 Mental Health Act was a national disappointment because it largely concentrated upon late stage clinical intervention with little content relating to provision for children and young people.
“If the draft Bill encompasses the recommendations of this report with a fully-funded early intervention National Strategy it can be a triumph.
Will the Mental Health Reform Bill take the UK’s children into the future?
Or impose an indefinite leave to remain in the past?”

Note: Children’s Alliance is a Water Babies outreach not-for-profit Community Interest Company: https://childrensalliance.org.uk/

For further information:

Helen Clark, lead author
[email protected]
0750 446 0315

Kate Day, co-author
[email protected]
07817 663473