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Covid-19: Child Health Services

Volume 699: debated on Tuesday 13 July 2021

What steps he plans to take in response to the findings of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health on the effect of covid-19 on child health services, published on 14 June 2021. (902636)

My apologies, Mr Speaker; I have lost my voice slightly. I was at Wembley on Sunday night and I have to say that those young lions outperformed. We are so proud of them, and I am certain that in 15 months’ time the nation will get behind them in Qatar and they will outperform again.

I thank the hon. Member for raising this really important question. We are committed to protecting vulnerable children and ensuring that every child receives the best start in life.

Children’s and young people’s health has been severely impacted by the pandemic, but it is the mental health impact of lockdown and school closures that is perhaps most concerning. Some 12% of in-patient paediatric beds are now occupied by those admitted because of severe mental health problems. That is double what it was in 2019. Does the Minister agree that children and young people have suffered greatly as a result of lockdown and that their health should now be prioritised in our recovery? If so, what steps will he take to put children at the heart of all policies and implement an overarching child health strategy?

I am grateful for the hon. Member’s question. Our mental health recovery action plan will allow us to deliver additional support for 22,500 more children to have access to community health services—I know that the Minister for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health would say that community access is incredibly effective—and for 2,000 more children to access eating disorder services. It will also help to increase the coverage of mental health support teams in schools and colleges from 29 to 400 by April 2023. That makes it all the more important, as the Secretary of State has outlined, that we get to step 4: it is critical to delivering the recovery action plan.