Written evidence submitted by Trudi Beswick, Caudwell Children (CYP0012)
To whom it may concern,
As the Chief Executive of Caudwell Children, a national children’s charity providing practical and emotional support services for disabled children and their families across the UK, I write to express my deep concern regarding some of the proposed Mental Health Act Reforms.
Through my role and 21 years of experience within the charity sector I have both a professional and personal interest in two priority groups featured within the recommendations, children & young people and autistic people.
I would firstly like to commend some of the reforms which specifically address the current failings in support for autistic people and people with learning disabilities to prevent them from being inappropriately detained under the Mental Health Act. The historic misuse of this law has resulted in countless unnecessary broken families and avoidable tragedy so reforms to treat autistic people and people with learning disabilities with the respect they deserve is long overdue but very much welcomed.
Unfortunately, the same commendation cannot be made for the proposed reforms, or lack of, to services for children and young people.
It was with a deepening sadness that I read what can only be described as a sad dilution to the point of enfeeblement of the recommendations outlined within the previously published ‘Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision’ Green Paper and the apparent failure to recognise the importance of prevention and early intervention in a long term strategy for mental health support.
As both an advocate and a provider of early intervention services for disabled children across the UK, it is well evidenced that an effective system of early intervention care and support for children and young people results in improved overall wellbeing and life chances, therefore reducing the need for intervention in later life. (For just some of the wealth of International research evidence to support these claims visit: https://www.eif.org.uk/reports)
To further highlight the glaring disparities between the recommendations outlined in the 2017 Green Paper and the 2021 White Paper I would like to draw your attention to these few salient points in cross referencing the two documents:
Green Paper Recommendations v White Paper Recommendations
• Support for all schools to train and appoint a Designated Senior Lead for Mental Health v No reference at all to support for schools
• Funding for new Mental Health Support Teams to provide specific early intervention and ongoing help, whose work will be jointly managed by schools and the NHS v Only a single reference to “some new school and college mental health support teams” with no detail of resource allocation (delivery or funding)
• A maximum four week waiting time for access to specialist NHS children and young people’s mental health services v The testing of a four week waiting time only referenced once “for generic adult and older adult care”.
Colleagues from across the charity, health and social care sectors are recognising the Mental Health Emergency facing children as a result of the impact COVID-19 has had on education, socialising and physical activity. With NHS studies showing that clinically significant mental health conditions amongst children had risen by 50% compared to three years earlier, the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield also recently published evidence which demonstrates “a system without the necessary capacity or flexibility to respond to such seismic events in the lives of children.”.
It is my concern, which I know is shared with professionals and parents across the country, that the proposed reforms to the Mental Health Act as detailed in the White Paper do not go anywhere near what is required to achieved the necessary levelling up of services for children and young people in this country.
Without immediate remedial action to further recognise and prioritise early intervention within children’s and young people’s mental health services then it will be a failing of this Government to protect our country’s future.
Without this action it will be this Government’s failure to enable the country to truly Build Back Better, and instead it will leave a tragic legacy of a generation of people who will be lost to mental illness.
I urge you to hear our plea and announce an immediate revision of the White Paper, before it is too late.
Trudi Beswick - CEO