As a coalition campaigning on behalf of vulnerable children and young people, we welcome the Scottish Government’s new ten year mental health strategy. It is also promising to see a commitment to delivering a separate Children and Young people’s strategy, as well as guarantee to establish an audit of rejected referrals to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.
The clear focus on prevention and early intervention in the strategy is very much to be welcomed, as is the commitment to establishing parity of esteem between mental and physical health. It is also good to see ongoing work being undertaken to understand the mental health inpatient needs of children and young people with a learning disability and/or autism spectrum disorder.
However, we do feel that this strategy could go further and have concerns over a lack of funding necessary to deliver it. The Scottish Government’s commitment of an additional £150 million for mental health over five years is welcome; however it is not nearly enough. Increased investment in mental health services is vital if we are to fully address the needs of those with mental health problems.
What is also concerning is that budget cuts in community-based services means that children and young people are often being forced to wait considerable periods of time before being able to access specialist mental health services. If we are to focus on prevention and early intervention, we need to ensure that adequate investment is being provided in these areas.
In addition, the outcome of the previous mental health strategy remains unclear. In this new strategy we require the establishment of clear objectives, which it currently lack, with who is accountable for achieving these and an established a mechanism to review performance in key areas. It is hoped that these can be developed as the strategy progresses.
We cannot afford for progress to stand still when dealing with such an important issue.
The Scottish Children’s Services Coalition:
Tom McGhee, Managing Director, Spark of Genius
Duncan Dunlop, Chief Executive, Who Cares? Scotland
Sophie Pilgrim, Director, Kindred Scotland
Stuart Jacob, Director, Falkland House School
Niall Kelly, Managing Director, Young Foundations
Liz May, National Co-ordinator, Action for Sick Children Scotland