“Fully fund whole system of children’s mental health,” councils warn as numbers surge

The number of children with mental health problems seen by social workers has surged by a quarter since before the coronavirus pandemic, amounting to nearly 1,500 kids presenting to councils every week, the Local Government Association (LGA) says.

11/02/22

“Fully fund whole system of children’s mental health,” councils warn as numbers surge

Council leaders say they have “grave concerns” over a surge in the mental health needs of children and young people, which have worsened as a result of the pandemic.

Department for Education (DfE) figures show that there were 77,390 children who had been assessed as having a mental health need by councils on 31 March 2021, an increase of a quarter on the 61,830 seen two years earlier.

The LGA, which represents 350 councils across England and Wales, says the figures show the devastating impact of COVID-19 on some young people, with successive lockdowns and school closures harming young people’s mental wellbeing and exacerbating existing mental health challenges for young people.

Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said councils have “grave concerns” over the growing mental health needs of children and young people, which have been worsened by the pandemic.

As a result, the Local Government Association is warning the number of children with mental health problems could continue to sharply grow, underlining the need for children’s social care services to be adequately funded, as part of a child-centred recovery from the pandemic, and the importance of early intervention to prevent a child or young person reaching crisis point.

“As these figures show, hundreds of children every week are seen by social workers because they need help with their mental health and we expect these numbers to grow as the full impact of the pandemic is felt,” Bramble said.

The LGA says councils have a “lead role” to play in promoting good mental health and tackling mental ill health. It says sufficient funding is needed for councils to meet all existing and new demand for children’s mental health support which has been built up during the pandemic, including preventative mental wellbeing work that can stop the escalation of mental health needs.

The figures come as soaring demand to protect children will see future costs in children’s social care increase by an estimated £600 million each year until 2024/25, with more than 8 in 10 councils already in the unsustainable position of having to overspend their budgets.

“This reinforces the importance of fully funding the whole system of children’s mental health support, including councils and the NHS, to make sure that children get the help they need, when they need it. That includes early help to prevent children reaching crisis point,” Bramble continued.

“Councils want to be able to provide the very best support for children, which is we are urging government to work with councils on a child-centred, cross-government pandemic recovery plan which offers the very best future for children and families.”

View the full Children in need and child protection government statistics: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-children-in-need

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