Children in need
Labour MP Luciana Berger sets out her party's plans for improving the mental and physical health of children and young people.
At a time when the ageing society is often in the headlines, yesterday’s
poll by Comres and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health shows that the voting public care as much about child health as they do about care for the elderly.
The poll revealed that 69% of voters see children and young people’s mental health as a top priority. But the Tory-led Government has broken their promise to protect frontline services, with funding for child and adolescent mental health services falling on their watch. Vital early intervention services have been stripped back too, leaving the NHS to pick up the pieces as problems become more serious later on. The latest figures show a huge rise in the number of young people turning up at A&E with a mental health problem and being admitted to hospital because their situation has reached crisis point.
Labour will work to reverse the damage done to child and adolescent mental health services by this government. We will set an ambition that, over time, the proportion of the mental health budget spent on children will rise – at the moment it is only 6%. Our plans will also include ensuring all teachers have training on child mental health so they can spot the signs and help children get the support they need.
Whilst we can’t always stop a child from getting ill, prevention is always better than cure, and our society should be doing more to protect children from commercial pressures and the harm caused by alcohol, sugar and tobacco. This is what parents want to see. So Labour will introduce new limits on the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food marketed to children, crack down on high-strength, dirt-cheap alcohol products that fuel binge drinking and underage drinking , and guarantee that all children will have the chance to do a minimum two hours of PE a week.
Taking action on children’s health is not only the right thing to do, it is essential if we are to ensure the NHS remains sustainable for the future. The scale of the challenge facing us is huge, but it is one Labour will not shy away from. We are determined to take decisive action to ensure that all children have the healthiest possible start in life and the chance to fulfil their potential.
Luciana Berger is MP for Liverpool Wavertree and Shadow Minister for Public Health