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Mental Health Services: Young People

Volume 709: debated on Tuesday 1 March 2022

We are committed to ensuring that everyone with mental health needs has timely access to support and treatment. We remain committed to the expansion in mental health services in the NHS long-term plan, which should see 345,000 more children accessing services by 2023-24. To accelerate that expansion, we have provided an additional £79 million this year in recognition of the impacts of the pandemic.

The NHS long-term plan promises a

“new approach to…mental health services for people aged 18-25”.

Could the Secretary of State set out in detail how university mental health and wellbeing services will work seamlessly with NHS mental health services so that students in need of support do not fall through the cracks?

The hon. Lady raises a very important point, especially as this week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week. Sadly, as she and many other hon. Members will know, eating disorders have increased significantly over the past couple of years.

Last year, during the pandemic, we published a mental health recovery action plan with an additional £500 million of funding, a minimum of £13 million of which was dedicated to young people between the ages of 18 and 25, particularly to help with the transition from children’s to adult mental health services. My hon. Friend the Minister for Care and Mental Health has been in talks with the Department for Education and has a meeting soon to discuss what more action we can take collectively.

Has my right hon. Friend made any specific assessment of the effect of the covid-19 lockdown restrictions on children’s mental health and general wellbeing?

I can tell my hon. Friend that we have and that that assessment continues. Sadly, as he will know, we have seen a significant increase in mental health referrals, especially for young people, over the past two years. The extra support that we have provided through the action plan and the £500 million of funding is helping, but I am afraid that there will be some long-term challenges created by the pandemic. We are very much looking at what more we can do.

I echo the words of solidarity with Ukraine that many colleagues have shared in recent days.

There are stark inequalities in children’s mental health services, from the postcode lottery of whether a child is ever seen after a referral to the luck-of-the-draw results of eating disorder treatment. Children from black and mixed-race backgrounds make up 11% of the population, but account for a staggering 36% of those detained in the highest-level mental health units. However, just 5% of those who access routine children’s mental health services are black. That is unacceptable—something clearly is not working.

Labour will put a mental health support hub in every community and a specialist mental health staff member in every school. What are the Government going to do?

I think we all agree, across the House, about the importance of mental health services, especially for younger people. As for what the Government are doing, before the pandemic there was already a commitment to increase funding for mental health services in the NHS’s long-term plan by an additional £2.3 billion a year. On top of that, there has been the response during the pandemic, with the mental health recovery action plan and the additional £500 million that I referred to a moment ago. When it comes to children’s mental health services, there is £79 million included, which will pay for an extra 22,500 referrals.