Barbara has criticised Jeremy Hunt for breaking a pledge to increase funding for mental health services.
Last December the Health Secretary said that Clinical Commissioning Groups would increase the proportion of their funding that goes into mental health. However recent responses to Freedom of Information Requests show that the opposite is happening, with half of the groups who responded admitting that they plan to cut the amount they will spend on mental health this year.
Barbara was speaking in a debate on a report on Young People’s Mental Health by the Youth Select Committee of the British Youth Council. More than 90,000 young people voted specifically for mental health services as their number one issue of concern in the 2014 UK-wide 'Make Your Mark’ ballot.
During the debate Barbara highlighted the fact that the Health Secretary had recently admitted “...we are letting down too many families and not intervening early enough when there is a curable mental health condition, which we can do something about when a child is eight or nine, but if you leave it until they are 15 or 16, it’s too late”. She said that the Government’s decision to press ahead with damaging cuts to local authority budgets meant that many of the local services providing early intervention services and support for young people had been forced to scale back services or close their doors. Ofsted has reported that between 2010 and 2015 there was a 38% cut (538 million) in funding for children’s centres, and a 53% cut (£623 million) in funding for youth services.
“It is clear that children’s mental health services have been woefully underfunded for years. Demand is outstripping supply and Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services are now described as the “Cinderella of the Cinderella Service.”
“The Government’s record on children’s and young people’s mental health is dreadful. The system is at breaking point. Demand for services is growing, waiting lists for support are too long, access to services is effectively a postcode lottery and the threshold for accessing help is getting higher and higher. The Health Secretary’s failure to act and to follow through the promises he made on crucial mental health funding is actually failing many thousands of children and young people.”
“The Health Secretary admits that this is possibly the biggest single area of weakness in NHS provision at the moment. But actions speak louder than words and he must act now. It is time to increase funding for overstretched mental health services for children and young people. If Ministers are serious about tackling these issues, they must follow their funding pledges with action.”