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Children and Young People’s Mental Health Services

Volume 607: debated on Tuesday 22 March 2016

5. What steps the Government is taking to improve support for children and young people with mental health problems. (904254)

The Government are committed to delivering the vision set out in “Future in mind” and are driving forward a major system-wide transformation programme, working alongside our partners in Government and arm’s length bodies to improve access to high-quality support across the country.

I thank my right hon. Friend for the steps he has set out. Will he join me in congratulating the charity YoungMinds on the important work it does in highlighting the mental health challenges young people face, not least from the so-called dark net and social media. Does he agree that we must ensure that the internet is a positive and not a negative force in tackling young people’s mental health challenges?

Yes, the work that YoungMinds and a range of other partners have done and continue to do to ensure that children and young people can access information safely is commendable. Children, young people and their parents have expressed the need to access both high-quality and reliable information and support online. That was reflected in the “Future in mind” report on children’s and young people’s mental health. We are investing with MindEd and a number of groups and organisations to work on apps for young people. It is important that they have access to safe material to exclude that which is rather darker.

The Minister will recognise that walk-in centres run by experienced GPs can offer important support to children with mental health problems, yet popular walk-in centres that were established by local GPs in my constituency are being put out to tender, putting at risk the leadership and involvement of those experienced GPs in the centres. Will the Minister give guidance to the NHS Procurement Authority that walk-in centres should be led by local GPs with experience of that area?

I will look at what the hon. Gentleman says. As he will appreciate, I am not responsible for individual commissioning decisions. The commissioners will have full regard to the needs of the local population when they are putting those services out. It is important that access is increasingly available at GP and primary level, as well as in other areas where the Government are investing further money. I will have a look at what he says.

20. Will the Minister inform the House of what dialogue is maintained between his Department and the Department for Education to ensure that those issues are picked up and that help is signposted as early as possible? (904271)

There is a growing relationship with the Department for Education—it is better than it has ever been. For the first time, there is a Minister responsible for mental health in the Department, and there is a schools champion for mental health, whom I met the other day at a conference in Cambridge. The Departments work closely together to deliver the vision set out in “Future in mind”. For example, there is a £1 million pilot project, working across 22 schools, to find the right people in schools to deal with mental health issues. There is much greater recognition that, the earlier we pick up these things, the better it is for youngsters and their future mental health.

Eating disorders among children and teenagers cause life-threatening health problems and even death. What steps is the Minister taking to enable early detection and intervention, which result in better prognoses and support closer to home?

There are two things that can help the hon. Lady. The first is the commitment to build £30 million a year into budgets over the next five years to support those with eating disorders, about which I spoke at a conference last week. The second is the earlier detection of eating disorders. We reckon that, by 2020, 95% of urgent eating disorder cases will be seen within a week, with routine cases seen within four weeks. There is recognition of the real danger now posed by eating disorders.

Earlier this month, school and college leaders reported a large rise in the number of students suffering from anxiety. Two thirds said that they struggle to get mental health services for their pupils, and of those who had referred a student to child and adolescent mental health services—CAMHS—most rated them as “poor” or “very poor”. Despite the Minister’s warm words, things are getting worse, not better. Will he confirm that every single penny promised to children’s mental health will reach those services and that none of this money will be used to plug the gap in hospital budgets?

Following long and frank conversations between me, the NHS and the Treasury, I can give the hon. Lady that assurance—every penny of the £1.4 billion pledged in the 2015 Budget for CAMHS and for eating disorders will be spent on children’s mental health by the end of this Parliament. It is not fair continually to say that nothing is going on. The first tranche of money—£173 million—is being spent: £75 million to the clinical commissioning groups; £30 million to tackle eating disorders; £28 million for the expansion of children’s IAPT—improving access to psychological therapies—services; £15 million for perinatal services; and £25 million to address other issues involving training. That is money already committed and it is being spent now. The problems that she mentions are a high priority and are being dealt with.

I listened carefully to the Minister, but by his own admission—in response to parliamentary questions—he is going to underspend this year by £77 million on his pledge to spend £250 million on CAMHS, and by £11 million on his £15 million pledge regarding perinatal mental health. He talks about the importance of intervening earlier. Does he agree with Labour that every child should receive personal, social, health and economic education so that young people are equipped with the resilience better to support their mental health?

We cannot have it both ways, it would seem. I have given a pledge, which the hon. Lady asked for in her first question, that the £1.4 billion committed to CAMHS will be spent by the end of this Parliament—and it will be. It is known that the first tranche has not been fully committed, but this is the first year and some money has to roll over. However, I have made absolutely sure that that money will be spent, including on perinatal services, which will reach a much better place than when we came into office, and that is very important. The work will be done. PSHE is not a matter for this Department, but I fully agree that it is important that children have such information. The pressure caused through social media, sexting and the like means that children these days need to have a very up-to-date, modern understanding of issues associated with personal health and social education, which I fully support.

May I gently point out to colleagues that, very useful and comprehensive though these exchanges have been, as usual at this stage we have got a lot to get through and we need to speed up a bit? There is a long waiting list of colleagues and we must get through that list.