What the Queen’s speech means for children’s mental health

23 June 2017

It was encouraging yesterday to hear commitments in the Queen’s Speech to reforming mental health legislation and to ensuring mental health is prioritised in the NHS. We were however surprised not to hear an explicit mention of children and young people’s mental health, given the priority it had in the last Parliament and the obvious need to improve children and young people’s (CYP) mental health.

Behind the speech itself, it was good to see confirmation that the government will publish a green paper on children and young people’s mental health. The discussion this paper provokes must result in the change we need to see.  What we don’t need is just another policy document. The scope of the green paper must include educational setting, which will be at the forefront of any effective plan to support the mental health of our nation’s young people.

We know that 50% of adult mental health problems are established by the age of 14, and so a greater focus on the prevention of child mental health problems is needed, along with early-intervention support when problems do emerge. Supporting mental health in the very early years is essential, and so our efforts must reach people even before school age, with a stronger focus on the perinatal period. Parents and carers provide crucial support when their child has a mental health problem, but they often receive little support themselves. This green paper must be an opportunity to examine ways of changing this.

The loss off Ed Timpson at the Department for Education will be felt. In the last Parliament, he displayed a real commitment to children and young people’s mental health. Ministers are good at picking up a new brief, but finding ministers with an authentic drive to be a real torchbearer for children and young people’s mental health in the face of a challenging political climate is more difficult to find.

The future prosperity of the country depends on us getting this right. We need to ensure that children are growing up with good mental health today so that the adults of 2036 can fulfil their true potential. If this is to happen we will need a strong, top-level team throughout this period of political turmoil to ensure the change government have committed to bringing on mental health doesn’t slip through the net. It is time for awareness to translate into action. We finally have the political focus on children’s mental health that we have been working towards for many years, but without accountability and change driven by a top-level team, the momentum won’t translate into action. It is time to see a mobilisation of resources and effort.

Children’s mental health problems are multi-faceted, and so too must be our response. The challenge goes beyond health, that’s why the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition is calling on the Prime Minister to establish an implementation taskforce pulling together ministers across government – including health, education, justice and work and pensions. Ensuring that they all work together is a real opportunity to show leadership, a challenge we hope the prime minister accepts.