02 July 2018
The Children, Young People and Education Committee published its report ‘Mind over matter’ in April 2018, calling for a step change in the support needed to tackle mental health issues and build emotional resilience in children and young people in Wales. Assembly Members will have the chance to debate the report and its findings, as well as the Welsh Government’s response to it in plenary next week (Wednesday 4 July).
The Committee’s report calls for urgent action.
The pace of change and progress it demands is reflected in many of the Committee’s recommendations, which set out clear and ambitious timescales for the Welsh Government, including reporting on progress within either three or six months of the report’s publication.
The Welsh Government has accepted many of the Committee’s 27 recommendations, albeit the majority ‘in principle’. But the speed at which progress will be delivered will undoubtedly disappoint some Members of the Committee and stakeholders alike. The Welsh Government is clear in its response to the report that in relation to many of the Committee’s recommendations, work will not be completed within the timeframe specified.
Instead, the Welsh Government offers to report back to the Committee on progress at a later date; by the end of 2018.
The Committee’s report sets out one key recommendation – that the Welsh Government makes the emotional and mental well-being and resilience of our children and young people a stated national priority. The Welsh Government states that ‘Prosperity for All: the national strategy’ recognises good mental health as one of the five areas which have the greatest potential contribution to long-term prosperity and well-being, and that implicit within that strategy is a focus on addressing the emotional and mental health needs of children and young people.
The Committee calls on the Welsh Government to make the emotional well-being and mental health of children and young people a stated national priority by:
- Providing an adequate and ring-fenced resource for schools to become community hubs of cross-sector and cross-professional support for emotional resilience and mental well-being, supported by statutory and third sector services, most notably health;
- Ensuring that emotional and mental health is fully embedded in the new curriculum;
- Ensuring that everyone who cares for, volunteers or works with children and young people is trained in emotional and mental health awareness in order to tackle stigma and promote good mental health;
- Publishing every two years an independent review of progress, which should involve children and young people throughout.
The Welsh Government has ‘accepted’ that emotional and mental health should be fully embedded in the new curriculum, stating that work to support children and young people to become healthy, confident individuals is already underway.
The Welsh Government ‘accepted in principle’ two other actions under this recommendation. It states that a Task and Finish group has already been established to help introduce a new model of Community Learning Centres. However, the Welsh Government feels it is unrealistic to ensure that everyone who cares for, works or volunteers with children and young people is trained in emotional and mental health awareness, but it agrees that key workers should be. The Welsh Government’s response refers to the 2018-19 workplan of the Together for Children and Young People Programme (T4CYPP) in relation to workforce, education and training.
The Welsh Government ‘rejected’ the Committee’s call to publish, every two years, an independent review of progress, offering instead to provide regular updates to the Committee on the various programmes.
Alongside its key recommendation, the Committee made a further 27 recommendations in its report. What do they cover?
Overview of the Committee’s report
The Committee’s report on emotional and mental health support for children and young people in Wales is wide-ranging.
There is a strong focus on preventative and early intervention services, focusing in particular on schools and how they can work more effectively together with health services to build emotional resilience in children and young people. The Committee’s report emphasises that the distress suffered by many children and young people could be reduced, or even avoided, by enabling them to draw on the right support at the right time, in schools and in primary care across Wales.
The report also looks at specialist child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS). It recognises that improvements have been made since the Committee last looked at this issue in 2014, and that the Welsh Government has invested significantly in services. However, it concludes that these changes do not go far enough. For example, some of the Committee’s recommendations include calling for:
- Further improvements to Local Primary Mental Health Support Services (LPMHSS) for children and young people to bridge the gap between emotional resilience support on the one hand, and specialist CAMHS on the other;
- The Welsh Government to develop an immediate recovery plan for neurodevelopmental services in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to address long waiting times;
- Improvements in access and working practices to crisis and out of hours care;
- A national action plan for the delivery of psychological therapies for children and young people.
The case made in the Committee’s report for investing as much in preventative and early intervention services, alongside specialist care is unequivocal. The report states that failure to deliver preventative services will lead to demand for specialist services outstripping supply, threatening their sustainability and effectiveness.
Article by Sarah Hatherley, National Assembly for Wales Research Service