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Government "failing a generation" on mental health

By Rachel Lawler
 
Toddler outdoors, government mental health report
The government is “failing a generation” on mental health according to a joint report from the Education and Health and Social Care Committees.
 
Both committees criticised the government’s proposed Green Paper on Transforming Children and Young People’s Mental Health Provision, which was revealed in December last year. They said that the proposals would not help those who need support and criticised the lack of focus on the early years.
 
Lack of focus on early years
The report, titled The Government’s Green Paper on mental health: failing a generation, says: “A lack of focus on the early years means that opportunities are being missed to promote emotional resilience and prevent mental health and wellbeing problems later in life.
 
“There is no consideration given to the important role that health visitors and children’s centres can have in promoting emotional wellbeing in the early years or of the adverse impact reductions in funding for these areas might have on support for the 0 to five age group.”
 
Delayed roll-out
The committees also criticised the timescale suggested in the government’s proposals. The report says: “Rolling out the plans to only a ‘fifth to a quarter of the country by2022-23’ is not ambitious enough.”
 
Exam stress
The effect of testing on children’s mental health was also highlighted by the committees, which recommended that the government gather evidence on the impact of exam pressure.
 
Early intervention
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: “It's difficult to see how government could contemplate any children's mental health policy that doesn't begin with the role of early years professionals in promoting mental well-being in young children.
 
“It is by now well-established that the first five years of a child’s life are pivotal to their long-term development and so there is simply no excuse for the lack of focus on the early years in the Green Paper – as such, the report is absolutely right to call on ministers to look again at the important role that childcare professionals can play in this area.
 
"We also welcome the committee’s recognition of the importance of children's centres in supporting children’s emotional well-being. We have long argued that such centres provide a vital service to children and families, and we hope that as the government looks to move forward with its work on children’s mental health, it will recognise the crucial role that children’s centres play by providing proper clarity over their future."
 
Imran Hussain, director of policy and campaigns at Action for Children, added: “With 28% of pre-school children facing difficulties that can impact on their mental health, it’s imperative that the government commits to doing more for this group.”
 
Minds matter
The joint report comes weeks before the Alliance's annual conference which this year focused on the theme of mental health and well-being of practitioners and children. Keynote speaker at the conference will be former Downing Street press secretary Alastair Campbell, who has spoken extensively about mental health and many of the workshops and activities will focus on providing practical advice and support. Minds Matter takes place on 1 June in central London. 
 
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