Children's mental health: Thousands to miss out on help under government plans, say MPs
Ministers' plans to improve support for children battling mental health problems will still leave thousands without the help they need, a powerful cross-party alliance of MPs has warned.
A new joint report by two House of Commons committees says the Government's proposals to boost mental health support for young people do not go far enough and "will provide no help to the majority of those children who desperately need it".
Ministers published a green paper on the subject late last year, pledging to set up new local mental health support teams and ensure that every school and college had a dedicated person in charge of dealing with the issue.
The Government also vowed to trial a new four-week NHS waiting time target for children and young people's mental health services in some areas.
But the MPs say the pilot projects will still leave "hundreds of thousands of children and young people unable to benefit", and point out that the limited schemes will only cover a fifth of the country over the next five years.
Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston, who chairs the Health committee, said the Green Paper was "just not ambitious enough and will leave so many children without the care they need".
She added: "It needs to go much further in considering how to prevent mental health difficulties in the first place.
"We want to see more evidence that Government will join up services in a way which places children and young people at their heart and that improves services to all children rather than a minority.”
The MPs also warn that some schools are already cutting back on their mental health support services because of financial constraints, and say that the extra requirements included in the plan could end up piling additional pressure on teachers if they are not matched with extra cash.
Conservative MP and Education Committee chairman Rob Halfon said the Government "must back up its warm words" with "urgent action".
He added: "If the Government is serious about tackling injustices in our society, it must ensure proper targeted funding of support for those most in need."
Labour said the report dealt "a hammer blow" to ministers' promises to extend help to troubled children.
Shadow health minister Barbara Keeley added: “Mental health treatment for children continues to fall short on key standards, such as access and waiting times; the Tories’ proposals do nothing to address these problems and will instead heap pressure on hard-pressed teachers and overstretched services."
A Government spokesperson said: “We completely reject any suggestion that our plans lack ambition – these changes will transform mental health services for children and young people, including the first ever waiting time standards for those with the most serious problems.
“This will be supported by a new workforce - larger than the entire current workforce - and backed by £300m of additional funding that will also provide significant additional resources for all schools. This builds on what good schools are already doing, without adding to teachers’ workloads.
“We agree that every young person should be able to access mental health support – however we need to ensure we get this right, which is why we will pilot this approach to make sure services are correct.”