The Government has announced nearly £5 million of new funding for Early Support Hubs in ten existing sites across England. This will help children and young people to access mental health support more quickly.
Dr Elaine Lockhart, Chair of the Child and Adolescent Faculty of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, has welcomed the announcement:
“There are far too many children and young people who are doing their best to cope with poor mental health alone. Today’s announcement is an important step forward in providing them with additional support.
“We know identifying and caring for young people who are struggling with anxiety or stress can prevent many of them from developing mental illness in the future. By protecting young people’s mental health, we can also help them to pursue their personal and professional goals as fully functioning adults.
“Investments like this are vital in alleviating some of the burden on children and young people’s mental health services which are currently struggling with overwhelming demand and chronic staff shortages. Doing so will save the NHS money in the long run by reducing the number of patients who need complex, long-term care.
“The College, alongside other members of the Children and Young People's Mental Health Coalition, has been calling for the roll-out of Early Support Hubs for several years, and we are pleased that Government has taken our recommendation on board. This announcement needs to be underpinned by further investment in the future to ensure the rollout of hubs nationwide and to move towards including younger children. For this support to be provided by every local authority, it would cost around £103 million a year.
“While positive steps are being made, it’s important to remember that drop-in centres and mental health support teams in schools are not a substitute for investment in specialist mental health services. While we understand that Early Support Hubs will signpost to information and other services, it is important that they are able to refer children and young people on to well-staffed specialist services when necessary.
“We need to ensure that front line mental health services get the support and funding they need to provide comprehensive provisions for children and young people. This is particularly vital for those who are often at risk of falling through the cracks of specialist provision, such as those under the age of five, between five and eleven and people between the ages of 18 and 25 years.
“The College has recently published a report, Infant and early childhood mental health: the case for action. In the report, we call on the Government and Integrated Care Boards to introduce new multi-agency specialist services for under-fives and ensure every family has access to the support they need, regardless of where they live.
“It urges the Government to prioritise the development of a cross-government early childhood strategy, workforce and training plan and to improve data collection on early childhood outcomes which will help us better understand and support young children.”