Early Intervention is the Key to Creating a Sustainable Health and Social Care System

15 July 2016

As a new government is formed during the month that marks the founding of the NHS in 1948, ‎the debate continues about how we can continue to finance first rate health and social care for those that need it. A debate that sees people giving sage nods to the importance of sustainability across health and social care, but with no real political clarity to what this means or looks like. At the coal face, we know that it requires a shift of resources to disease prevention and empowerment of patients rather than more of the same.  Of which, investing in the mental health of children and young people plays a crucial role.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t just about the NHS.  There are a wide range of social factors that can put us at risk of developing mental health problems.  Including very big social issues that are difficult to tackle. We know that some children as young as 11 have drifted into a negative social identity and display behaviours that will harm other children as well as themselves.  Drug dealing arrests among under 16s have hit 2,000 a year, with some even caught dealing in the playground.  Criminals ensnare children; threaten them and their families with violence. The organisation, ‘Release’ rightly state this is a safeguarding issue.  Those who take these children into drug dealing have been described as modern day Fagans by Javed Khan of Barnardo’s.  Addressing this can’t be left to any one person or agency. It takes a whole community to support the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people and help them develop a positive social identify.

When our new Prime Minister addressed the nation from the steps of 10 Downing Street this week she talked about tackling injustices, and referenced mental health.  So there is hope that Theresa May understands why tackling the social injustices that often impact on mental health and investing in initiatives to tackle these is so essential.

A clear message from Future in Mind was that more of the same in terms of mental health support for children and young people isn’t an option.

We know there needs to be a whole systems approach to providing the full range of services and support needed to address the mental health and wellbeing needs of children and young people.  

If the new government is serious about bringing about change, there needs to be more of a focus on early intervention and prevention. At the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition’s recent seminar on the transformation of child and adolescent mental health services, it was clear that whilst we all talk about the need for early intervention; these services are not universally in place. To move this forward, and ensure that early intervention and prevention has impact, we need to rephrase it and refer to sustainability instead. 

‎So what does this mean and what does it look like?

‎We need to speak as one voice to embed values based care across the whole system of health, social care, education and juvenile justice as it impacts on the health and wellbeing of all our children and young people.  If we can support children and young people to develop a sense of connection, support, meaning and control in their life they will through positive social identity have enhanced wellbeing. Currently we all too often leave them with a lack of positive social identity and they drift and are led by the few into a harmful social identity, and their health and wellbeing is compromised ‎in the process.

 It is time to take a long hard look in the mirror ‎and asked what more we can all be doing across our communities to support children and young people.