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Children and Young People: Mental Health

Volume 635: debated on Tuesday 6 February 2018

This week is Children’s Mental Health Week, and still too many children and young people wait too long for their mental health provision in the NHS. That is why, by the end of next year, we will have invested an extra £1.4 billion, meaning that 70,000 extra children and young people are seen every year.

A constituent’s 14-year-old son suffers severe obsessive compulsive disorder, resulting in self-harm. Treatment options have failed and his doctor recommends an intensive residential programme, but as Ministers are aware, places are very limited. He has been waiting seven weeks and counting, with 24-hour parental support and supervision. What more can be done to ensure that that boy and other adolescents who are in desperate need of help get that help before it is too late?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising that issue, and I understand that in that particular case clinicians are meeting this week to resolve those issues. She is right: we need to expand the number of beds available for children and young people. They are at a record level—1,440, and that went up by another 81 last year—but more needs to be done, which is why we published our children and young people’s mental health Green Paper.

I have been approached by a number of my constituents in Leicestershire who are concerned about the wait between a referral to child and adolescent mental health services and the allocation of a named caseworker and formal treatment. Will my right hon. Friend enlarge on how the steps that he is taking, which he has set out, will help to reduce such waits in Leicestershire and across the country?

I am happy to do that. The simple truth is that it is a tragedy for every child who has to wait too long to access mental health care, because half of all mental health conditions become established before the age of 14. If we do not nip them in the bud, they can get a lot worse. What are we doing? We are setting up a whole new service inside schools to spot such problems earlier and we are going to introduce a waiting time target for CAMHS appointments.

In 2016-17, 65% of young people in England with eating disorders started urgent treatment within one week of referral. What has been done to ensure that the target of 95% by 2020 will be reached? Does the Secretary of State share my belief that waiting time targets are a vital tool for improving eating disorder treatment and should be in place in all parts of the United Kingdom?

I absolutely agree with that. I join my hon. Friend in supporting the introduction of waiting time targets in Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom. How are we doing so far? In terms of the need for urgent treatment for eating disorders, we are hitting 79%, so we are on our way to the 95% target and we want to get there as soon as we can.

I listened very carefully to what the Secretary of State said about the additional funding that is supposed to be reaching the frontline, but the Young Person’s Advisory Service, which is the main service for young people’s mental health in Liverpool, has seen a £757,000 cut—a cut of 43%—in this financial year. There are now 412 children in Liverpool waiting more than 28 weeks for an assessment—not even for treatment. It is absolutely shocking. How can he stand there in young people and children’s mental health week and say that everything is rosy?

I did not; I said the opposite. I said that we need to do a lot more and I told the House what we are doing. If the hon. Lady looks at what is happening in her own clinical commissioning group, she will see that the proportion that is spent on mental health has gone up from 12.3% to 13%. She will see that this Government have done a huge amount on mental health. In 13 years, Labour did not have any waiting time targets for mental health and did not introduce parity of esteem—a whole range of things that are now happening and that she should support.

Will the Government commission more extensive research into the causes of mental ill health among children and young people, both pre and post-natal, with a view to preventing as much ill health as possible?

We are absolutely going to do that. We have a big programme of expansion in perinatal health support, because there is a lot of evidence that pressures on mothers around the time of birth transmit to their children and can leave lasting damage.

Specialist mental health crisis care for young people in south Cumbria is available only between the hours of 9 and 5 from Monday to Friday. Does the Secretary of State agree that in the light of the Care Quality Commission’s recent damning report of the partnership trust, that is not acceptable? Will he join me in asking the Morecambe Bay CCG to ensure that there is out-of-hours and weekend care for all people?

I am happy to look into that issue. The hon. Gentleman’s colleague, the right hon. Member for North Norfolk (Norman Lamb), did a huge amount to set up crisis care provision around the country. We need to build on that for the simple reason that, if we are to have parity of esteem, people need to be able to get help in a mental health crisis, just as they are if something goes wrong with their physical health.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that, as well as improving the treatment of adolescent ill health, everything possible needs to be done to prevent crisis from occurring in the first place? Does he agree that we need more research into why we are seeing a surge in Cheltenham and elsewhere in the world, so that clinicians can best tailor their response?

This is something that my hon. Friend has thought a lot about. A particular area of concern is the growth in mental health problems in young women between the ages of 18 and 24. We are looking carefully at whether that relates to social media use, which is an additional pressure that many of us did not face when we were that age. I thank him for his campaigning on this issue.

19. The figures show that, on average, children and young people have to visit their GP three times before a referral is made for a specialist mental health assessment. Sometimes, they then have to wait six months for treatment. In Lewisham, the CAMHS budget is being cut, which is likely to result in even longer waiting times for treatment. The right hon. Gentleman said that these waiting times are a tragedy, but how bad do things have to get before the Government take action? (903791)

With respect, we are taking action. Last year, spending on mental health went up by £575 million and four out of five CCGs increased their mental health spend by more than their overall spend. This year, all CCGs will do that. That will apply in Lewisham, as it will everywhere else in the country.

Under plans announced by NHS England, child victims of sexual assault in Stoke-on-Trent would have to travel as far as Birmingham to receive the vital support that they need. Will the Secretary of State agree to look urgently into the proposals to remove child sexual assault referral services from the city?

Research by the Children’s Commissioner revealed that the spend on children and young people’s mental health services varied by CCG from 0.2% to 9%, resulting in services in some areas being described as “shockingly poor”. Can the Secretary of State therefore explain the reason for the variation, and will he commit today to matching Labour’s pledge to increase the proportion of the mental health budget spend on CAMHS services?

The hon. Lady is right to shine a light on that variation, and that is why this Government have introduced Ofsted ratings for all CCGs—to make sure that we understand. It is not just in children and young people’s mental health, but in all mental health where we see that variation. Specifically when it comes to children and young people’s mental health, she will be pleased to know that last year overall spending went up by 20%, and the Green Paper that we published announced an additional £300 million in investment.