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Councillor calls for 'early help hubs' to address mental health crisis among young people

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A Fenland county councillor is calling for mental health hubs to be set up across Cambridgeshire to make it easier for young people to access support.

Councillor Sam Hoy, Conservative party spokesperson for children and young people, claims that young persons' mental health services are in crisis in Cambridgeshire and cites data which shows the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Clinical Commissioning Group spends less than one per cent of its budget on mental health services for young people each year.

Coun Hoy, who is set to table a motion to the county council's December meeting, says the spending equates to just £49 per child or young person, with the average cost of £50 for a counselling session, she says that money does not go far.

Young people are increasingly suffering with mental health problems. Photo: Stock image.
Young people are increasingly suffering with mental health problems. Photo: Stock image.

She says she has been contacted by many local families deeply concerned about the lack of support for the area's young people and said waiting lists for counselling are many months long and often rely on referrals, she says are too complex for some families to understand.

And she blames the pandemic and its affect on young people for the burgeoning demand for more help.

She said: "I think the pandemic has been absolutely awful for young people, the lockdowns and Covid measures have had the most severe harm on them and they are the least at risk and as a result there are a lot more children and young people suffering with mental health issues, and we need to do something about it."

Councillor Sam Hoy. (52063194)
Councillor Sam Hoy. (52063194)

Coun Hoy said in July 2020, data from the NHS suggested that one in six young people now has a probable mental health disorder, up from one in nine in 2017. The Children’s Commissioner reported that in 2019/2020 there had been a 35 per cent increase in referrals to children’s mental health services, yet only a four per cent increase in support, she claimed.

She added: "Mental Health charity ‘Young Minds’ in 2019 surveyed young people about their experiences of early support, two-thirds said they could not find support when they first needed it. Three-quarters (78 per cent) of young people in the same survey said that they had had to manage their mental health on their own when they couldn’t find help elsewhere, but only 17 per cent felt confident in their ability to manage their mental health by themselves."

Coun Hoy said it is acknowledged the earlier a young person gets help with their mental health the more effective it is and that's why she wants to see early help hubs set up so young people can have open access to support without the need for a referral.

Councillor Hoy says the pandemic has taken its toll on young people's mental health. Photo: Stock image.
Councillor Hoy says the pandemic has taken its toll on young people's mental health. Photo: Stock image.

The hubs would allow young people up to the age of 25 to access an array of services to help with everything from mental health to drug and alcohol abuse.

She added: "Shamefully Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG appears as one of five areas with the worst performance on the table for ‘CCGs with the lowest performance on mental health service spending and waiting times for children in England for 2019/20."

Coun Hoy was aware that there is not a "bottomless pit of money" but said investing in young people's wellbeing would be a saving in the long run.

Her motion calls on the council to ask the chief executive to write to the charity Young Minds to join its call on Government to #fundthehubs – and press for more Government funding in mental health.

The motion also calls for the chief executive to write to the CCG to "urge it to urgently to increase its proportion of spend on young people's mental health".

And finally she wants the council to work with the CCG to open an early help hub in each of the county's primary care areas.

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