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“Our Children Deserve Better”

Volume 571: debated on Tuesday 26 November 2013

14. What steps he has taken in response to the findings of the report by the Chief Medical Officer, “Our Children Deserve Better: Prevention Pays”, published in October 2013. (901271)

The chief medical officer’s report warmly welcomes the Government’s commitment to increasing health visitor numbers and support in the early years, and I shall be working with the children and young people’s outcomes forum to inform future improvements in children’s health.

My hon. Friend the Minister will know that about half the burden of mental health disease can first be identified during the teenage years. In her report, the CMO says that our information about the prevalence of childhood mental health problems and the level of under-diagnosis of mental health problems among that population is out of date. When will the Government commission the next survey? The last one was done in 2004. Is it not time to do another?

My right hon. Friend raises important issues. I should like to pay tribute to the work that he did in expanding children’s talking therapies and IAPT—improving access to psychological therapies—services to make better provision for mental health support. He is right to highlight, as the CMO did, the fact that we do not have enough data on children’s mental health. That has been a historical problem, and we are looking at ways to improve the data so that we can use them to improve health outcomes in mental as well as physical health.

In Devon and Cornwall since the beginning of this year there have been three occasions when children as young as 12 and 13 with acute mental illness have been detained in police cells instead of an appropriate place of safety, and 25 occasions when children of 17 and under have been so detained. Will the Minister meet me to discuss how we can end this appalling situation and make sure that all children who are detained under section 136 are seen in an appropriate location?

My hon. Friend is right to highlight this problem, which is unacceptable. My hon. Friend the Minister of State is looking into it. A lot of anecdotal evidence is stacking up that this practice is happening. We do not find it acceptable, and I or my hon. Friend will be happy to meet her to discuss the matter further and ensure that it is stopped.