Written evidence submitted by Young Minds




19th June 2020


1.0)            I am writing on behalf of YoungMinds to provide a written submission to your Committee’s inquiry into the impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors. We welcome that your inquiry is considering the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic is having on DCMS sectors. This response considers the long-term impact of the pandemic on the voluntary and community sector (VCSEs) and organisations that support young people with their mental health.


1.2)            YoungMinds is the leading children and young people’s mental health charity in the UK, and we put the experiences of children, young people and families at the heart of everything we do. This submission will draw on the insights and lived experiences of the children, young people, parents, carers and professionals that we work and wider research.


2.0)            The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is the biggest health crisis for generations, and it is having a devastating impact on the lives of people across the world. The measures that the UK Government is taking to address the crisis, including restrictions on movement and the closure of schools to most students, are necessary to save lives.


2.1)            The pandemic is also a mental health risk. To investigate the impact that the crisis is having on young people’s mental health, we surveyed 2,111 young people with a history of mental health needs[1]. Whilst the restrictions on movement are necessary to limit the spread of COVID-19, the results show that the measures are having a significant impact on young people with existing mental health conditions.


2.2)            The findings suggest that the coronavirus is having a negative impact on young people’s mental health, with 83% of respondents agreeing that the pandemic was making their mental health worse. The key factors that young people said had affected their mental health were concerns about their family, school and university closures, loss of routine and loss of social connection. Furthermore, risk factors associated with mental health conditions, including domestic violence[2] and risk-taking behaviour such as increased alcohol consumption, are also increasing because of the pandemic.


2.3)            During this time when we expect young people’s mental health to be getting worse, our research suggests that not all young people who need to be receiving support for their mental health are doing so. We conducted a survey with 1,679 parents and carers[3] to find out what impact the pandemic and the restrictions on movement were having on the mental health of the children and young people in their care. A significant issue for the respondents to our survey was the lack of mental health support that they were able to access.


2.4)            Mental health problems in children and young people have been shown to have an impact across the life course on educational outcomes[4], employment[5] an ability to maintain relationships, the likelihood of engaging in risky behaviours such as self-harm[6] and a reduced life expectancy[7]. It is therefore imperative that young people are able to access early support for their mental health, to prevent their mental health needs from escalating.


3.0)            Community and voluntary organisations play an integral role in supporting young people with their mental health. This may be by providing clinical therapies and counselling or wider mental health services, delivering programmes that are aimed at improving mental health and wellbeing, or increasing young people’s access to information and resources about mental health and wellbeing.


3.1)            VCSE organisations are facing particular challenges in response to the coronavirus crisis. Charity sector bodies have made initial estimates that there be a minimum reduction of £4.3bn of income in the first 12 weeks of lockdown, though the figure could be far higher[8]. Recently, Pro Bono Economics predicted that  the charity sector faces a £10.1bn funding shortfall over the next six months as a result of Covid-19 - expecting sector-wide income to drop by £6.7bn at the same time as demand for services rises by the equivalent of £3.4bn[9].


3.2)            Similarly, in research by the Institute of Fundraising, 43% of charities surveyed reported an increase in demand for their services but a decrease in 31% for their total income (against their total income from the previous year) [10]. In some areas, this had already led to the closure of local community organisations that provide mental health support for young people at the local level. Therefore, many young people are being left, and will continue to be left, without the appropriate support for their mental health. The Government must take urgent action to invest in support for young people and their mental health.


4.0)            Youth services play a crucial role in intervening early and supporting young people with emerging mental health needs with their mental health. Additionally, youth organisations provide protective factors that help young people to build the resilience that is needed to help them overcome life’s obstacles[11]The financial pressures on VCSE organisations are likely to lead to a reduction in the support available to young people including those that support vulnerable young people with issues such as drug or alcohol abuse and domestic violence.


4.1)            According to research by the YMCA on spending on youth services in England and Wales has been cut by 70% in real terms in less than a decade[12], with the loss of £1bn of investment which has resulted in the loss of 750 youth centres and more than 4,500 youth workers. This reduction in spending is expected to be exacerbated by the economic impacts of COVID-19. A recent survey by UK Youth estimates that nearly a third of youth organisations and clubs face closure by the end of the year if current Covid-19 restrictions remain in place. It is, therefore, concerning that we have seen the closure of many youth centres across the country in recent years. In practice, this means that many of the spaces where young people at risk can talk to a trusted adult and access early support may not be available in future are much more difficult to access.


5.0)            VCSEs also play an important role in supporting BAME communities, who have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they also face additional barriers to accessing NHS services. Young Black people frequently find themselves labelled by officials and professionals as being ‘hard to reach’ or ‘marginalised’. Furthermore, research suggests that many young Black men feel that they will be treated differently by mental health services based on colour or race[13]. 

5.1)            The cultural understanding of mental ill-health can vary between ethnic communities. Equally, stigma can be felt strongly within some BAME families and communities. This can act as a significant barrier to seeking support from GPs or specialist mental health services. The fear, stigma and shame associated with mental ill-health and childhood adversity in some BAME communities can lead parents to actively avoid interactions with mental health services to circumvent a diagnosis and possible exclusion from community life[14]. 


5.2)            There are an estimated 9,000-10,000 BAME charities & community groups operating nationally. Many of these are small organisations with an average turnover of less than £10k annually. Research by the Ubele Initiative[15] finds that nine out of 10 BAME micro and small organisations are set to close if the crisis continues beyond three months following the lockdown.  More funding needs to available to support the sustainability of BAME VCSEs in their response to the pandemic and beyond. Therefore, we support Charity So White’s recommendation to ensure ring-fenced funding is available for BAME VCS Groups, managed directly by BAME Infrastructure organisations[16]. 


6.0)            We welcome the steps that the Government has already taken to assist these sectors, including a total of £9.2 million specifically for organisations providing mental health support, and £750 million for VCSE sectors. However, this falls well short of meeting the scale of need. While many voluntary sector providers have been quick to adapt to the changing landscape by moving support online and using innovative approaches to safe service delivery, there remain gaps in infrastructure and funding which threaten the long term sustainability of these efforts. This may leave many young people unsupported with their mental health and a wide range of other needs.


6.1)            Young people’s mental health services were already overstretched before the pandemic. Given the amount of young people that are experiencing a disruption in their care during the lockdown and the expected increase in young people with emerging mental health conditions, it is likely that services will be overwhelmed by the numbers of young people that are looking for support as we transition back to normal life. It is clear that to meet the needs of young people as we recover from the vast economic and social repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need a new and systematic approach to mental health support. This must strengthen mental health support and prioritise early intervention in our communities.


6.2)            Because of this, our Beyond Tomorrow campaign[17] is calling for the Government to take urgent action to make sure that, as we emerge from this pandemic, all young people can get the help they need when they need it. We recommend that the following steps are taken to support the sustainability of the VCSE and youth sectors in supporting young people with their mental health.


  1. Ensure that all young people and families who need immediate mental health support can get it, to prevent the pandemic from having long-term consequences for young people’s mental health.



  1. Help schools and professionals to support young people with their mental health during the pandemic and as we emerge from it.


  1. Commit to introducing additional support for young people’s mental health beyond the pandemic to tackle the anticipated rise in mental health needs.


[1] The survey was conducted between Friday 20th March, the day on which schools closed to most students and Wednesday 25th March, when further restrictive measures had been put in place. Full details can be found in the report: https://youngminds.org.uk/media/3708/coronavirus-report_march2020.pdf

[2] https://www.refuge.org.uk/refuge-sees-700-increase-in-website-visits/

[3] The survey took place between Thursday 9th April and to Monday 20th April. We will be publishing findings wider findings from the survey in due course.

[4] Green H, McGinnity A, Meltzer H et al (2005) Mental health of children and young people in Great Britain, 2004. London: Office of National Statistics

[5] Ormel J, Oerlemans AM, Raven D et al (2017) Functional outcomes of child and adolescent mental disorders. Current disorder most important but psychiatric history matters as well. Psychological Medicine 47:1271-1282

[6] Nearly half of 17-19 year olds with a diagnosable mental health disorder has self-harmed or attempted suicide at some point. NHS Digital (2018) ‘Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017’ Available at: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/mental-health-of-children-and-young-people-in-england/2017/2017

[7] Hayes JF, Marston L, Walters K et al (2017) Mortality gap for people with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia: UK-based cohort study 2000-2014. British Journal of Psychiatry 211(3):175-181

[8] https://www.ncvo.org.uk/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/2748-every-day-counts-as-charities-still-wait-for-government-support

[9] https://www.civilsociety.co.uk/news/charities-face-10-billion-funding-gap-over-the-next-six-months-due-to-covid-19.html#sthash.T4f27cx1.dpuf

[10] https://www.institute-of-fundraising.org.uk/news/coronavirus-impact-survey-results-charities-cannot-meet-the/

[11] https://nya.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Out-of-Sight-COVID-19-report-Web-version.pdf

[12] https://www.ymca.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/YMCA-Out-of-Service-report.pdf


[14] For more information about this, please see Addressing Adversity ebook (YoungMinds, 2018). Chapter 14 14. Responding to the traumatic impact of racial prejudice. Available at: https://youngminds.org.uk/media/2715/ym-addressing-adversity-book-web-2.pdf


[16] https://charitysowhite.org/press/open-letter-relief-packages-for-the-charitable-sector

[17] https://youngminds.org.uk/get-involved/campaign-with-us/beyond-tomorrow/