Children and Mental Health Services — [Mark Pritchard in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:58 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of John Woodcock John Woodcock Independent, Barrow and Furness 2:58 pm, 16th July 2019

Thank you for calling me early, Mr Pritchard; it is a pleasure to serve under you. I apologise to Andrew Griffiths for arriving late. I was in the main Chamber for the domestic abuse statement, which unfortunately ran over a little. I commend him and those who made interventions on what I heard them say. I am sure that throughout this debate, we will be given shocking examples of how this is truly a nationwide crisis. Any Government of any hue must, as a first step, be honest about the scale of the problem and how much is being stored up for future generations, as was said eloquently by the hon. Gentleman.

I will give the Minister and the Chamber a couple of the many examples I have received from constituents who have got in touch. Drew is a nine-year-old boy whose mother contacted us in March last year in a desperate state. On a weekly basis, Drew talked about killing himself; he would regularly go so far as to put a rope around his neck. Obviously, they were seeking urgent medical help for Drew.

Fifteen months later, Drew had his first appointment with CAMHS. That was 15 months when that child was at risk and that family was going through something—it is really hard for parents to imagine their child in distress, desperately reaching out for help and just being put on an interminable waiting list. Drew’s mum is left wondering how best to house her family. Her benefits have been reduced because of the bedroom tax. The need for Drew to have a separate room is not acknowledged, despite the fact that he is aggressive and sometimes violent towards his sibling. His mum is now forced to confront the prospect of Drew sharing a bedroom with her. That is deeply inappropriate and a sign of a system that is broken locally.

Another example is a child who was deemed to be a clear suicide risk. A significant amount of resource was placed into multidisciplinary team meetings for the child, but in meeting after meeting, for whatever reason, CAMHS did not show. The process to provide appropriate help for that child could not go ahead and deeply scarce resources were being burned up. It was only after the intervention of our team that we managed to bring CAMHS to the table.

Professionals want to do things. No one goes into this field wanting to do the wrong thing; they go into it to help, but the resources are not there and often the system is inefficiently resourced. I briefly pay tribute to the work of the local commissioning group, which as of last week has put in some resource for mental health professionals to work across schools, but it does not come close to the level needed. I beg the Minister to listen and to do what she can to get the Government to act.