Today marks the launch of the “Future in mind” report, setting out recommendations in the hope of improving children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.
Now, I do a lot of campaigning. I am also a CAMHS service user and so getting CYP mental health up the agenda makes me a very happy person! However my issue comes when I perceive what others see as concern and positive change as tokenism. Unfortunately, this is how I saw the launch of the taskforce report and Clegg’s recent ‘pledge’ to allocate £1.25bn of the Budget to mental health services.
I’m sure that many politicians do care about improving mental health services, Norman Lamb being one, but there is a “too little, too late” vibe around the entire thing. We could have put our energy into attempting to secure decent CAMHS services for our young people 5 years ago. Instead, our funding has been cut (in 2008/09 £758m spent was on CAMHS in real terms, compared to the £717m in 2012/13, the last year for which figures are available) resulting in a shortage of beds, resources and staff.
“But, Stella!! We know this! It’s better late than never!” I hear you say. That’s very true, but – call me cynical – I fail to see how the money will make a substantial impact. It will make an impact, yes, and it is better than nothing, yes. But once it’s broken down over 5 years and into CCGs (of which there are 211) and further than that, into the CAMHS services that each individual CCG provides, it doesn’t leave a lot. I fear that a large chunk of the money will be used to replenish services and get them back to the levels that they were at before the majority of the cuts were made, before we can see any real improvement.
As for the report, I have read it and I agree with the majority of recommendations made, but I’m sure that all the suggestions are ideas that staff and service users have been requesting since the beginning. Should all of the changes be implemented, CAMHS would be getting a pretty major facelift! Even in fairly ‘structural’ terms, with a recommendation for scrapping the tiered model and introducing another such as the Thrive model, on which I have reservations.
As the pressure of the election rises – along with my cynicism(!) – so do the election promises. Politicians need to cover all bases and make as many people as they can willing to vote for them. Making CYP mental health an interest serves well, as not often has it been an issue of much concern. Without meaning to sound condescending, it almost seems like a niche issue to cover.