In a UK-first, every single child with a mental health condition will get the treatment they need before 2020 is out, says Southwark Council.
The pledge – made jointly by the council, healthcare providers, and commissioners – makes it the only local authority in the country to say it will treat 100 per cent of children with a diagnosed mental health condition, outstripping a ‘shameful’ national target of just 35 per cent.
The commitment was publicly announced at last week’s council assembly on Wednesday night to rounds of applause, with Councillor Jasmine Ali telling her colleagues : “You can rest assured of one thing here tonight, there is no way, no way we are going to let 65 per cent of children with mental health needs go unsupported in Southwark. Not on our watch.”
Council Leader Peter John hailed the ‘historic commitment’ and said the level of support from across the public sector from head teachers, council workers and clinical commissioning groups was “something I’ve never seen before in my experience of a councillor and I think it shows the determination and unique nature of our borough.”
He said the aim was to prevent children ending up in acute care through earlier intervention, and said that if they get anywhere near the ambition target the borough would be a ‘beacon’ for the rest of the UK.
Nationally, one in ten children and young people aged five to sixteen are believed to have a clinically diagnosed mental health disorder but the assembly heard that just 0.7 per cent of NHS funding goes towards mental health services, and only six per cent of that figure is earmarked for children.
In Southwark around 1,460 children are living with emotional disorders such as depression and anxiety, 2,300 children with conduct disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder, and 650 children with hyperkinetic disorders like ADHD.
In a statement sent to the News, Cllr Ali said: “Would we accept targets that said only 35 per cent of children with a broken arm would receive treatment?
“It’s time for mental health to be treated in the same way as any other health emergency. I believe we can do better for our young people.”
The council will now look at CAHMS services across the country to find outstanding examples of care and aim to replicate them at home.
Other initiatives to give children the best start if life launching next year include rolling out free school meals in nurseries from January 2019 and setting up an affordable loan scheme to help parents struggling to pay for childcare.
At the assembly, Southwark’s Liberal Democrats supported the initiative but called on the council to also reverse its 50 per cent cuts to youth services and instead double funding across the borough, along with setting up a dedicated knife crime unit.
While debating the council’s strategy for helping children have the best start in life, opposition leader Anood Al-Samerai spoke about her experience as a new parent, saying “the last six months have been the toughest of my life and certainly harder than any election campaign” and argued the success of the council’s plans will depend on how much it involves parents themselves. “I’m proud to be a Southwark mum but we must tackle the cost of childcare,” she said.
A spokesperson for NHS Southwark CCG told the News:“NHS Southwark CCG is fully committed to working with colleagues across Southwark to improve the experience, accessibility and outcomes of mental health services for all children and young people in the borough.
“We welcome the ambition set out by council colleagues to increase access to these services, alongside a more comprehensive approach to improve the lives of the borough’s families and young people.
“Together with the council, we have carried out a joint review of children and young peoples’ and wider mental health and wellbeing services, and have identified a number of opportunities to improve care provision.
“But specialist services alone are not the answer, and we are working with partners on the Health and Wellbeing Board to reduce the number of people requiring mental health services in the first place, by focusing on the causes of mental and physical ill-health. This approach aims to help Southwark’s children achieve the best possible outcomes in life.”