15th November 2016

Children and Young People’s Mental Health: Time to Deliver

The Education Policy Institute’s Independent Commission on Children and Young People’s Mental Health has released a new report, Time to Deliver, which calls for a new ‘Prime Minister’s Challenge’ on children and young people’s mental health.

The report represents the culmination of the Commission’s work over the last year, reflecting on progress made in transforming services following the government’s investment of £1.4bn, announced in 2015. Based on its comprehensive research, Time to Deliver sets out a number of new findings, and proposes a series of recommendations which it urges the government to adopt through the Challenge. This includes an ambitious programme of changes covering research and prevention, early intervention and improving access to quality services.

You can download the report in full here.

Key findings

  • The Government’s decision not to ring-fence the funding for children’s mental health is putting the young people’s mental health transformation process at risk.

– In the first year, of the expected £250m, only £143m was released, and of that only £75m   was distributed to clinical commissioning groups. While it is unclear how much of this has reached frontline services, mental health providers have indicated that they have not yet seen this increased investment. For 2016-17, £119m has been allocated to clinical commissioning groups, but this has not been ring-fenced – with the risk that it will be spent on other priorities.

– In order to ensure that the investment reaches frontline child and adolescent mental health services, the government must withhold local areas’ shares until they have set out robust plans to improve care and can demonstrate that the money is reaching services and not offsetting cuts elsewhere.

  • There is evidence of a ‘treatment gap’ when it comes to local mental health transformation plans. The Commission calls for the retention of children and young people’s mental health as a national priority over the next five years and after 2020. –

– Findings reveal that two thirds (66.9 per cent) of young people aged 16-34 who had attempted  suicide had not subsequently received medical or psychological help.

– The Commission’s research has also identified that specialist mental health services are on average turning away nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of the young people referred to them for treatment.

– Research supports previous findings that workforce difficulties are a key barrier to the implementation of the vision set out in Future in Mind.  83 per cent of trusts which responded said they had experienced recruitment difficulties, with a similar number of trusts saying they have had to advertise posts on multiple occasions to fill roles, with mental health nurses being the most difficult profession to recruit, followed by consultant psychiatrists.

  • A significant hindrance to progress is the lack of engagement between health services and schools. The report highlights the difficulties faced by health staff in attempting to work with the education sector – with schools similarly expressing frustration at obtaining support for their pupils from specialist mental health services.

Policy recommendations

The Commission calls for a new Prime Minister’s Challenge on Children’s Mental Health, which should be adopted as a key priority for the government. This would set out an ambitious reform programme covering research and prevention, early intervention, and improving access to quality services. It would include:

  1. Research and Prevention
  • The establishment of a Mental Health Research Institute to fund research into understanding mental health and new treatments.
  • An easy to understand web-based parenting guide for all parents.
  • A strategy to empower young people to live safe digital lives.  This should focus on developing young people’s resilience and critical thinking skills in the face of online threats, given the impossibility of eliminating all online risk.
  1. Early intervention
  • Kite marked, easily accessible, early-intervention services in every area.
  • A national programme on mental health and wellbeing within schools with trained teachers and a trained mental health and wellbeing lead guaranteed in every school, college and university.
  • High quality statutory PSHE in all schools and colleges – with dedicated time for mental health.
  1. Improving access to high quality services
  • Areas should not receive their annual share of the additional £1.4bn unless they can demonstrate that they have robust plans to improve care and all the additional funding is being spent on children’s mental health and not offsetting cuts elsewhere.
  • A new and ambitious goal that no one should wait more than eight weeks for routine treatment.
  • An end to the practice of making a young person leave their support services to move onto adult services on their 18th birthday.