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

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:24 pm on 16th July 2019.

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Photo of Ruth Cadbury Ruth Cadbury Labour, Brentford and Isleworth 3:24 pm, 16th July 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Pritchard. I congratulate Andrew Griffiths on obtaining the debate and on his excellent speech, which I almost wholly agree with.

I carried out a constituency survey on mental health services for young people and the responses showed that my constituents are worried and concerned and feel that the situation is getting worse. Of the top issues when we analysed the results, No. 1 was long waiting times, No. 2 was that people get care only after self-harming, and No. 3 was that the police were having to intervene to protect at-risk young people. The young people were coming to the notice of the services far too late. For example, a parent said they had had to visit the GP three times and it was only after their child self-harmed that they were referred to CAMHS. Another, speaking of her daughter, said:

“Her future has been robbed by mental illness and the NHS didn’t have the staff or resources to make a difference when it counted.”

The hon. Member for Burton and others have clearly outlined the need for more funding. If the Minister needs ammunition to help her with her arguments in the spending review, just think of the cost to the nation of not adequately funding early intervention and CAMHS before things reach crisis level for young people.

I want briefly to discuss early intervention in schools. Universal services—in education, family and youth services, as well as voluntary services—are a vital part of early intervention, identifying at-risk children and signposting them towards dedicated services. That is why we need fully funded universal as well as specialist services. However, cuts to Sure Start centres, youth services and school funding mean a loss of welfare support and other forms of support. The people in those services are the ones who pick up issues, give support and make referrals. That is why austerity in the context of mental health is not just an issue affecting CAMHS; it is about all those services. My local authority, the London Borough of Hounslow, has lost 40% of its total income through a cut of more than 80% in Government grants. That has meant that it has had to cut direct and commissioned services. Now we can see that cut after cut has a detrimental impact not just on young people’s life chances but on their physical and mental health.

Schools are a vital part of early intervention, as other Members have said. When we discuss the role of education in relation to mental health, we need to remind everyone that our schools are facing a funding crisis. They have had to implement a real-terms funding cut of 9% since 2010. In further education it is worse. FE colleges are losing an average of 20% in funding. That is certainly happening at my local FE college. It affects their ability to support young people in crisis. Teachers and school staff are already overworked, and welfare and teaching support have had to be cut. Often teachers can spot problems, but they are not trained to treat mental health issues. In addition, because of the nature of teacher training, there is often no space for teachers to learn about neurodiversity—dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, ADHD and so on. It takes even teachers a while to recognise what the problems are. That in itself causes mental health problems. Even when they do identify at-risk students and refer them, those students face long waiting times.

We are lucky in Hounslow. We have been successful in getting £820,000 in grant funding for specialist mental health staff based in hub schools, which is good. It is one of 25 pilots. However, that is not enough and I am afraid I do not agree with the Government when they say they are spending a record amount in this area. There have been so many cuts that I believe a lot less is being spent than was funded under the Labour Government.