Written evidence submitted by the Parent Adolescent Child Therapist Team (PACT) working at Horsham and Crawley Counselling Group CIC
As an counselling agency that offers long term counselling to children or young people from Horsham, Crawley and the surrounding areas we would like to offer the Select Committee the following observations regarding the current provision of mental health support to this client group.
We operate a Parent, Adolescent, Child and Therapist team known as ‘PACT’. We accept referrals direct from parents, teenagers and via onward referral from other services.
We would suggest that the existing, trained workforce of children and young persons’ counsellors & psychotherapists from outside the NHS, could readily be deployed to provide a consistent, school-based service which works as an entry point into a properly resourced CAMHS system. The loss of school based counsellors had a significant impact which is only now beginning to be addressed.
Children and young people need help promptly and many of the teenagers we’ve worked with at HCCG are increasingly cynical about and tired of mental health awareness raising in schools, when they then experience that there are no services to follow up with.
So, we would support the government’s plan to place a trained counsellor in every primary and secondary school but ask that you look to utilise the skills and experience of the existing workforce first before the NHS begins yet another round of recruitment. Highly qualified and experienced practitioners are have already been working hard throughout the pandemic to continue to support children and young people, both in voluntary and private settings.
Our experience during the last 12 months is that there has been a significant increase in the beginnings of or the presence of eating disorders among the teenagers and young people that we work with. This is an area of provision within the NHS which is significantly under resourced and we would actively support an expansion of provision in eating disorder clinics and specialist support.
Our PACT team can easily become flooded with referrals due to the lack of local provision for mental health support, both within schools and other local services. This is alongside the overwhelming pressure already being experienced by CAMHS locally for appointments, especially with the raising of the thresholds for support.
In our view it would greatly benefit parents to have a much clearer understanding of the thresholds for support, particularly as they vary from area to area. This would actively avoid the anxiety and distress that families suffer when the threshold is not met.
We now represent the service that parents turn to when they cannot access support from elsewhere. As a Community Interest Company, we are at least able to offer much reduced fees in order for them to access support from us.
There is no reason why we could not offer this support adjacent to the work carried out by the NHS, but we are hampered by the not insignificant commissioning processes. Our partnership with a social prescribing project in Crawley funded by the CCG for adults, where GP’s can refer patients to us for free counselling, paid for by the project is a good example of this.
There has also been a huge increase in self harm and suicidal ideation and intent in this group. We would emphasise the importance of the work carried out by voluntary organisations who work to create a sense of community among children and young people particularly in areas of deprivation such as Crawley. Earlier interventions reduce the need for much more specialised support later.
Many of these support networks, such as outreach projects, youth clubs, children’s centres and youth workers who identify early when children and young people are struggling, have now been lost, due to financial cutbacks and now also the pandemic. This means children and young people often only reach us only when their psychological difficulties have become very entrenched.
Lastly, the impact of COVID-19 the loss of the normalising structures of attending school and being with friends is having a massive effect on children and young people’s mental health. As an organisation we are only at the start of understanding what this will mean in terms of referrals.