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Southwark Council launches children’s mental health commission

10 October 2019

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield OBE and Harriet Harman MP joined commission Chair Cllr Jasmine Ali, Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Adult Care, for the inaugural meeting of the commission.

Southwark Council has launched the Southwark Child and Adolescent Mental Health Commission to guide, support and evaluate the actions being taken in the borough to revolutionise and transform mental health support for children, young people and their families.

This builds on the 2018 commitment to become the first local authority to ensure that all children with a diagnosed mental health condition in the borough will have access to the mental health services they need. In November last year the Southwark Health and Wellbeing Board which is representative of the Council, the NHS, the voluntary sector, local schools and young people made the historic commitment to support 100% of children and young people with a diagnosable mental health need.

The commission brings together experts from various fields all with significant professional experience of child and adolescent mental health.

Both Harriet Harman MP and Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield paid tribute to the council’s ambition in stepping up to improve support for children and their families.

As part of her keynote speech, Anne Longfield drew on her experience of young people often feeling like they were not ill enough to access services and when they did, they were often met with long waiting times. She also highlighted the role that social media played in exacerbating adolescent anxieties.

Anne also called for a redistribution of national funding for mental health services to be weighted in favour of services for young people.

Harriet Harman noted that as well as access to services there was also an inherent issue of inequality which needs to be redressed. Harriet highlighted that parents who can, will buy services while the children of low income parents often will not have their needs met. She also highlighted the key role that schools play in recognising and supporting children who have experienced trauma as well as the need for parents to have a more direct role in the decisions that affect their children.

Council officers advocated for ‘a values-based’ approach to commissioning mental health services. These services should focus on equity, equality and accountability within a system that has a high level of ambition for improving outcomes for young people. Professor Kevin Fenton also advocated for a long term and consistent approach to imbedding a whole system transformation that has the views of young people and their parents at its centre.

The commission will meet quarterly from October 2019 to October 2021 to openly share learning about what works in practice in the field of child and adolescent mental health. The commission will also  evaluateand share the work that the council is doing to achieve its aim.

Cllr Jasmine Ali said: “This first meeting of the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Commission is a really important step in our journey to providing 100 percent of children and young people with help or support.  The commission is representative of experts in mental health and key thinkers in social policy, it will play a key role in guiding the progress of the work the council is doing to achieve our aim.”

“We are at a really exciting stage of the process where we are beginning to see what our offer will look like both in terms of practical delivery and also in terms of the ethos that underpins the work that is happening. Across the council and our partner organisations there is a real commitment to this goal and ensuring that young people are listened to and represented in our plans and service delivery. 

“Recent months has seen a lot of learning and planning taking place and I’m thrilled that we will soon be putting these plans into action and making a real impact on the wellbeing of our young people.” 

Anne Longfield OBE, Children’s Commissioner for England, said: “Worries about mental health are the biggest single issue children talk to me about and despite some improvements from NHS there is still a vast gap between what is provided for children suffering from mental health problems and what is needed to treat them. 

“That’s why I am so pleased that Southwark has launched its Mental Health Commission with its commitment that every child in Southwark will get the mental health help they need by 2020.

“I want to see every council and health authority in the country following suit to provide the vital early help and support to tackle mental health problems as they occur and linking to specialist support when needed. 

“Mental health worries are sadly part and parcel of growing up for too many children.  I will continue to push government to make this a priority and encourage local agencies to follow the bold step that Southwark has taken.”

Harriet Harman, MP for Camberwell and Peckham, said: Quality child mental health services is an equality and human rights issue. A child being able to get the support they need should not depend on how much money their parents have. All credit to Southwark Council and Cllr Jasmine Ali insisting that 100% of children with mental health problems get the services they need. I hope other councils and Clinical Commissioning Groups follow their leadership.”

Page last updated: 11 October 2019

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