Mental Health Provision for the Young In Devon : A Crisis.
Probably the most important post I'll make on here... or, 'How a long term lack of funding from the Conservative government, and a lack of scrutiny at a local level has led to a meltdown'.
I work in a school - it’s a small, all through school in Exeter, with a disproportionate amount of children with social, emotional and learning needs. We regularly try to access various Devon county services to help with issues that are beyond our level of expertise.
One such service is CAMHS. This provides mental health support, counselling and assessment for young people experiencing such issues.
Their waiting list is officially, around 6 months. In reality, who knows.... the tragedy of increasingly poor mental health among the young especially, is that we could prevent it with a little more thought and some brave spending decisions.
Imagine this. You’re a teenager, in need of urgent support. They’re difficult times for most, especially as we emerge from the low hanging cloud of Covid, but if you are suffering from a particular mental distress these situations can often, unfortunately, lead to suicidal thoughts or those of self harm, and sometimes even actions.
So...you reach out for help. A worker at your school comforts you and refers you to CAMHS. You’re told, at best, you must now wait 6 months. 6 months before you can be assessed. Even longer before you will receive any professional help. And that help, usually, consists of just 6 sessions.
If you’re not ‘fixed’ by then, tough.
Now I’m not blaming CAMHS for this - far from it. They do a marvellous job in the most trying of circumstances. Those circumstances being lack of resources, staff and money. Lack of a properly supported service.
Another ridiculous disparity has also emerged. Devon County Council acts as corporate parents to those in its care. If you’re at university for example, it will look after your interests until you are 24. If you fall under the potential for criminalized behaviour or mental health issues group, once you reach 18, that’s it. Again, if you’re not ‘fixed - tough...'. People squabble over what bit of who’s care come from which departments budget, simply because nobody has adequate funds to pay for everything. There are so many people who work tirelessly to provide quality interventions for all of these vulnerable groups - but they are fighting against the system, not able to work with it. How can this be right?
Special Educational Needs provision and funding, too, is in turmoil. In 2017 DCC announced plans to stop any non-statutory funding, followed in the following year an inspection of services rated as needing major improvements in 4 areas.
This is a classic case of ‘spend to save’. You invest now, the population is happier, more well rounded and, if we must bring money into this, more productive and able to contribute to society, saving on ongoing health costs and potentially the cost of housing offenders in prison. A problem nipped in the bud at an early age with proper support is clearly better than one which isn’t, and is subsequently allowed to fester. So CAMHS, for example, need financial support now to benefit us all in the future.
So there isn’t enough money - local authorities always struggle to make ends meet.
And there aren’t enough staff- what’s new?
If elected, I’ll push for the County Council to put more funds into mental health provision, especially for the young. Let’s look at how what is supposedly a multi agency provision can become just that - everyone working to the same goals rather than fighting against each other. And I’ll lobby our MPs and to push for a much better funding arrangement to help us tackle this issue at source.
On the issue of staffing - this is another tragedy. I see in my work how many potentially brilliant counsellors and mental health workers are already in the system. But they’re unable to make that step to professionalize their innate abilities because the cost of training is completely unsubsidised - it’s not a degree so the usual funding arrangements do not apply. And even if you can stump up the huge training fees, there are a lack of placements to take you under their wing. I urge the government to help redress this issue - until a steady stream of well trained staff can enter the field, services will always struggle to be anything other than keeping their head above the water.
Unfortunately, the aforementioned mantra, 'If you're not fixed - tough....' simply doesn't cut the mustard an more. This is far too important.